Egypt has come a long way since the January 25 revolution. The country that once upon a time quietly anticipated the handover of power from Hosni Mubarak to his son Gamal is now choosing between 13 candidates to become the next president of Egypt.
Though it’s been a year and a half since the downfall of Mubarak, it’s no secret that the demise of the dictator did not bring with it the collapse of his regime. This realization has pushed many Egyptians to continue their struggle for freedom by incessantly protesting against Egypt’s current military rulers, who are perceived by many as Mubarak loyalists.
How will the presidential election affect the fate of the revolution? “The reason Egyptians revolted was to oust a corrupt president, not to live in a continued state of rebellion,” said Ali Bahnasawy, media advisor to Dr. Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh’s presidential campaign. Abol Fotouh is a reformist Islamist who has gained support in both activist and Muslim Brotherhood circles.
Bahnasawy believes that the revolution’s success depends on electing someone who genuinely supported the uprising since the very beginning. “They will vote for whomever they believe will fulfill the demands of the revolution but if he fails they will surely find their way back to the streets.”
Along the same lines, some Egyptians are apprehensive about the candidacy of former members of Mubarak’s regime, fearful that Egypt might spiral back into autocracy. But Ahmed Sarhan, spokesperson for the presidential campaign of Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak’s former prime minister, opposes that notion. “Shafik was a technocrat minister and was never a member of the ruling National Democratic Party,” said Sarhan. “If he is capable of achieving the main goals of the revolution—bread, freedom, and social equality—then why shouldn’t he be president?”
Sarhan discounts arguments that the election of a former member of Mubarak’s regime could mark the end of the revolution. “I think that protesting is a right we gained and we can never give up. But the reasons for protesting will change. The revolution will not disappear but it will take an approach of reconstruction.”
Yet such optimism toward the democratic process is not widespread. Political activist Noor Noor, son of eliminated presidential candidate Ayman Nour, is among those boycotting the election entirely. He fears that participating would ultimately lead to “the abortion of the revolution.” He fears the ugly scenario of a non-transparent electoral process. “The rules and procedures of these elections haven’t been placed by the revolution. They were placed by Mubarak’s men. These elections are not elections that reflect the revolution.”
Noor predicts the election of a “weak” candidate, which would play into the hands of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and would be “damaging” to the fate of the revolution. “The SCAF are doing their best to show that they are not ruling the country, they shifted negative public pressure to the Parliament, by ensuring that the Parliament is weak and can’t do much but took public attention away from SCAF,” said Noor. “They will do the same with the president.”
Egyptians will soon know the name of their first democratically elected leader since the beginning of time (not an exaggeration). Regardless of the outcome, by now Egyptians have learned that they—and only they—control their fate. The revolution might face setbacks and challenges, but its future is not solely tied to the outcome of an election.
Farah Saafan is a video-journalist based in Cairo.