Islamist vs. Secularist for Egyptian Presidency (FrontPageMagazine.com) by Ryan Mauro 05/28/12)
Front Page Magazine.com
Front Page Magazine.com Articles-Index-Top
The votes have been counted and the results, though not yet official,
are in: The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi came from behind to
win Egypt’s presidential election and he will face former Prime
Minister Ahmed Shafiq on June 16-17.
According to Ahram Online, the latest unofficial tally shows Morsi in
first place with 25%, thanks to a tremendous last-minute surge. Two
polls before the election showed 33% to 38% of voters were undecided,
giving him room to grow. His growth came at the expense of his
closest Islamist rival, former Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Aboul-
Fotouh, who presented himself as the consensus candidate that is
acceptable to all.
The Brotherhood wisely moved to the right when Aboul-Fotouh
campaigned as a centrist, bringing his numbers down. The most
conservative Islamist elements of Egyptian society, specifically the
Salafists, had endorsed Aboul-Fotouh and it appears that the
Brotherhood won them over. In the final weeks of the campaign, the
Brotherhood doubled-down on implementing Sharia Law.
Morsi forcefully declared, “We will not accept any alternative to
Sharia, the Quran is our constitution and it will always be.” The
Brotherhood had hardline clerics campaign for Morsi. One, Safwat
Higazy, said at a rally that “We are seeing the dream of the Islamic
Caliphate come true at the hands of Mohammed Morsi.”
It worked. The last polls showed Morsi in fourth or fifth place. He
ended up taking the prize.
Now, the Brotherhood is moving to the center and is framing the
contest with Shafiq as one between the old regime and the revolution.
Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, the top Brotherhood cleric, instructed
Egyptians to pick Morsi. He said that the upcoming run-off is not
about Islamism versus secularism but between “the revolution and the
enemies of the revolution.”
A Brotherhood official confirmed that it is seriously considering
offering Aboul-Fotouh and Hamdeen Sabahi, the secularist who came in
third place, posts as vice presidents in exchange for their
endorsements. If that happens, then the Brotherhood is virtually
guaranteed to win the presidency.
The Brotherhood is also trying to appeal to Christians. A top
official said, “Who killed them [Christians] in protests? Who
prevented them from building churches? The old regime, not us.”
Elliot Abrams makes the point that a Morsi victory could be good for
the West and the secularists in the long-term because the Islamists
will have to accept blame for everything that goes wrong. Over time,
the Islamist support will fall as Egyptians seek new alternatives.
This is what happened to Hamas’ popularity in the Gaza Strip.
Ahmed Shafiq came in a very close second place at about 24%. He was
supported by those who miss the Mubarak regime, Christians and some
secular democrats. He was a long-shot candidate until the very end
and his rise came at the expense of Amr Moussa, his closest secular
rival. Moussa’s support began falling after his debate with Aboul-
Fotouh where he mistakenly called Iran an “Arab country.”
Shafiq and the secularists as a whole also benefited from a backlash
against the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists as a whole. In
February, 43% of Egyptians supported the Brotherhood and 40%
supported the Salafist Nour Party. Within a few months, only 26%
supported the Brotherhood and 30% supported the Salafists. It seems
that many Egyptians were uncomfortable with the possibility of one
party or one ideology controlling both the parliament (which the
Islamists won with 75% of the vote) and the presidency.
Shafiq made a point of reaching out to the Christian minority, which
is about 10% of the population. He floated the idea that he might
make a female Christian his deputy. Coptic Christian groups in the
U.S. endorsed his candidacy.
Now, Shafiq is on the defensive because of the Brotherhood’s
political strategy. He is working to change the image that he is an
opponent of the revolution. He says the Islamists have “hijacked” the
revolution and that he does not want to move backwards. The most
liberal elements of Egyptian society refuse to embrace him. The Free
Egyptians Party, for example, described the upcoming race is
the “worst case scenario” pitting an “Islamic fascist” against
a “military fascist.” The secular democratic party says it may
boycott the election and will endorse neither candidate.
Hamdeen Sabahi came in a surprising third place with about 21.5%. He
is a secular Nasserist, but that is not necessarily good for the U.S.
In 2005, hesaid, “One must salute this organization [Al-Qaeda] when
it kills any American soldier—a soldier, not a civilian. The presence
of Al-Qaeda in Iraq as part of the resistance is a positive
phenomenon that should be supported. I support Al-Qaeda when it kills
His surge happened because many secular voters wanted someone who had
no ties to the Mubarak regime. He was able to position himself as the
only secularist candidate that is a friend of the revolution. He was
consistently in fifth place in the polls, though one had him rising
above Morsi for fourth place. He ended up coming in a close third.
The results were incredibly embarrassing for Aboul-Fotouh and Amr
Moussa who were, for almost the entire duration of the campaign,
considered the frontrunners. They even had a one-on-one debate
because it had appeared to have become a two-man race. Fotouh ended
up in fourth with 18% and Moussa came in fifth with 11%.
Sabahi and Aboul-Fotouh have filed complaints, claiming to have proof
of voter fraud designed to help Shafiq. Aboul-Fotouh says campaign
observers were not allowed to view the ballot counting at some
stations and some votes were casted by dead people. Other voters were
bribed. Sabahi wants a partial recount. He says that hundreds of
thousands of military and security personnel voted for Shafiq, even
though they were not allowed to vote. The Brotherhood reportedly
chose not to complain about the fraud because it doesn’t want to risk
having another vote. Moussa is not filing any complaints.
If the election results become official and these challenges are
dismissed, all attention will be focused on the upcoming battle
between Morsi and Shafiq. The race will be decided by how the race is
seen by the public.
If the Brotherhood succeeds in creating a grand “pro-revolution”
alliance against Shafiq that includes pro-revolution secularists, it
probably wins in a landslide. If Shafiq succeeds in making it about
secularism against Islamism, then he can win the presidency
comfortably. If you total up the percentages of the major secular
candidates (Shafiq, Sabahi and Moussa), you get about 56.31%. If you
total the percentages of the major Islamist candidates (Morsi and
Aboul-Fotouh), you get only 43.23%.
The Islamists may or may not win the presidency, but they already
have a huge majority in the parliament and that is, in and of itself,
a huge victory. The big question is how much power the ruling Supreme
Armed Council of the Armed Forces is actually willing to give up.
(Copyright © 2012 FrontPageMagazine.com 05/28/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY