What Egyptians want is personal security, jobs and food (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Zvi Bar´el 06/17/12)
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"Allah save Egypt," said the banner running on the bottom of the
screen of the Al Arabiya news channel.
"It doesn´t matter who is elected. The main thing is that he´ll
protect Egypt," a fellah from the Dakahlia Governorate, northeast of
Cairo, told a reporter from a state television channel.
Then Hajja Fatma, a veil covering her entire face, told the reporter
what was meant by saving, or protecting, Egypt: "We have no security.
Every day there are attacks against people in the neighborhood, and
there are absolutely no police, no one to turn to for help. They hurt
old people, rob homes, and kidnap children for ransom. Allah, Allah,
we need order."
Al Jazeera showed a group of men boiling coffee over an open fire.
One man had a machete in one hand, another held a club and a third
stirred the coffee. "These men decided to protect their
neighborhood," the reporter explains. The men, who wear long, dress-
like abayas and are from a poor neighborhood, say they were fed up
with there being no one to protect the citizens. "By the time the
police or the army arrive, the criminals are gone. That´s why we´re
Personal security, job security and food security are the overriding
concerns of Egypt´s citizens. The question being asked in the
election this weekend is not which of the presidential candidates can
better provide these needs but rather, which is the better salesman.
Tens of thousands of soldiers and police officers were deployed to
keep the peace at and around polling places, and so far voting has
gone smoothly - a few crossed-out ballot slips here, a few civilians
wearing army uniforms and impersonating soldiers there, and one group
of April 6 movement members that was campaigning illegally against
Ahmed Shafik, the candidate perceived as representing the "ancient
regime" because he served as prime minister at the end of the Mubarak
Beyond a runoff election between Shafik and the Muslim Brotherhood
candidate, Mohamed Morsi, the race is seen as a battle between
the "supporters of the secular, civil state" and the "defenders of
the revolution," respectively. Morsi represents Egypt´s historic
turnaround, during which the Muslim Brotherhood broke free from its
designation as a prohibited movement, given by Gamal Abdel Nasser and
persisting through the Sadat and Mubarak regimes, to become a legal
party that controlled the parliament up until its dissolution on
Friday by order of the constitutional court.
But the Muslim Brotherhood´s release from its bounds is the nightmare
of everyone who wants a secular, civil Egypt and dreads its becoming
a sharia state. The paradox is that those who support the democratic
process, the regime change, the elimination of the remainders of the
old regime, cannot support Shafik. But anyone who aspires to a
liberal, secular state cannot give their vote to the Muslim
Brotherhood. And so activists from the protest movements - young,
educated, secular - find themselves casting their votes alongside old
men with heavy beards, mosque beggars and veiled housewives, for
Morsi, "for the sake of the revolution."
Their opposite number - young, educated, secular - try to persuade
people to vote for the candidate of "the civil state," the man who
until a year and a half ago was the prime minister of the
Until the polls close tonight, the election is a battle of images and
reputations. The homepage of the Muslim Brotherhood website features
hugely funny YouTube videos from young, secular stand-up comedians.
In one clip Salah El Daly admits, "We have no choice but to
support ..." then comes to the edge of the stage, holding a shoe with
a rolled-up photo of Shafik that he shows the audience and then puts
on. The laughter of the audience attests to its feelings about the
candidate. There are no clips that make fun of Morsi. No one makes
fun of "the candidate of the revolution."
While the two candidates represent opposing ideologies, each knows
that if he tries to rule by his respective ideology, he risks facing
protests that will topple him. The results of the first election
round were divided almost equally between supporters of the religious-
revolutionary ideology and of the secular state. Both Morsi and
Shafik won around a quarter of the vote, with the remainder divided
among religious and secular candidates.
The tension in Egypt will reach its peak when the polling stations
close and the counting begins. But a winner has already been
declared: the constitutional court. In overturning the Political
Exclusion Law, meant to bar senior officials in the Mubarak regime
from politics for 10 years, the court sanctioned Shafik´s candidacy;
that, together with forcing the dissolution of parliament after
finding the election campaign unconstitutional, placed Egypt at the
top of a roller coaster. For a moment, a new revolution seemed
imminent. Would the Muslim Brotherhood, which lost the most in the
ruling, take to the streets, or would it accept the verdict and
behave like genuine democrats? Would the protest movements reoccupy
Tahrir Square, or would they bite their tongues and recognize that
the court based its ruling on amendments they themselves had
demanded? Everyone agreed to changing the parliamentary election
process, and it was the discrimination embodied in the exclusion law
that led to its being found unconstitutional.
In the end, the constitutional process won. The Muslim Brotherhood
accepted the ruling, and the protest movements did not take to the
streets. Everyone recognizes that this was more than just a legal
interpretation. The head of the constitutional court is Farouk
Sultan, who was appointed in 2009 by then President Hosni Mubarak.
His appointment set off a major controversy because it went against
the accepted practice of naming the longest-serving appeals court
judge to the post. His decision last week may have been a parting
gesture - he retires later this month - on behalf of the old regime.
But all this is not really important. Accepting the authority of the
constitutional court marks the success of the Egyptian method. The
fact that no one in Cairo has yet suggested adopting the Israeli
method and passing a law to bypass the constitutional court may be
the best guarantee that Egypt, regardless of its president, will
continue to be a state of institutions that balance each other out.
(© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 06/17/12)
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