Egypt’s electorate between rock and hard place
The political scene in Egypt has become more turbulent than ever in the last few days.
Earlier today, the country’s highest court voted to permit Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, to run for President. But that’s not all.
They also determined that the current parliament was unconstitutional, and dissolved it . . . effectively turning the country back to military control, two days before the runoff election.
The court announced Thursday that a law intended to block the presidential candidacy of Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force general and Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, was unconstitutional, ending weeks of speculation that the 11th-hour ruling might bar Mr. Shafiq from running.
The court also ruled that some parts of a law governing parliamentary elections that took place six months ago were unconstitutional.
According to Ahram Online, a news website owned by the Egyptian government, a constitutional court judge announced that the ruling effectively dissolves both houses of Egypt’s parliament.
Taken together, the verdicts return the military—and the civilian cabinet it appointed—to full authority over the country, unhindered by an elected parliament.
Shafiq has been campaigning hard while awaiting the verdict. The secularist Shafiq is up against the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist candidate, Mohammad Morsi. He’s pointing out the difference at every opportunity.
Just days before the final round of Egypt’s presidential election, religion has become a deciding factor for many voters, who face a stark choice between a conservative Islamist and a secular former military officer.
The Muslim Brotherhood is presenting its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, as a man of the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak and is accusing Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister appointed by Mubarak, of trying to return Egypt to the old and repressive order.
But Shafiq, like Mubarak a former combat pilot, is hitting back hard, using near-daily news conferences and interviews to play on some Egyptians’ fears of the rising power of Islamists. Shafiq accuses the Brotherhood of hijacking the revolution, and he has been painting a grim picture of what he says Egypt would become under the Brotherhood’s leadership — an ultraconservative Islamist state akin to Saudi Arabia, hostile to moderate Egyptian Muslims, Coptic Christians and women.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is a sectarian trend,” Shafiq said last week on local channel CBC. “The Brotherhood is intimidating the Copts not to vote in the runoff. They are threatening to ruin their shops and businesses.”
The revolution which ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak was headed up by secularists. Now, those who fought to rid themselves of Mubarak’s rule have a horrible choice to make: one of Mubarak’s henchmen, or a conservative Islamist.
Which step backward will they choose?