The final results of the Egyptian presidential elections are in– the final run-off election in June will pit Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood against Ahmed Shafiq, former prime minister who represents the old guard of the Mubarak regime.
Morsi received around 25% of the votes, closely followed by Shafiq, 24%. Other main candidates include Hamdeen Sabahi- a left wing liberal and strong supporter of Nasser (22%), Aboul Fotouh, who is presented as a ‘moderate’ Muslim (17%) and Amr Moussa –the former Egyptian Foreign Minister during Mubarak’s regime and former head of the Arab League (12%).
These results suggest that Egyptian voters fall into three camps:
1.) Roughly 25% of Egyptians are very serious about implementing strict Sharia law in the country (such as Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi supporters) – supporters of Morsi.
2.) Roughly 39% who care more for social justice – supporters of Aboul Fotouh and Sabahi.
3.) Roughly 36% who care for regaining stability as during the Mubarak regime – supporters of Shafiq and Moussa.
The results also raise these important points:
The results indicate that the Muslim Brotherhood suffered a significant decline in popularity over the last few months since the group took historic control of the parliament with more than 45% of the vote. In fact, with most Salafi groups (who won more than 25% in the parliamentary vote) supporting the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, it was expected that Morsi would get more like 70% of the vote. Indeed, many Brotherhood leaders were confident that their candidate will win the presidential race in the first round. The results, therefore, come as blow to the Islamists. Analysts explain this “decline” in support for the MB by citing bad performance in the parliament, broken promises on several key issues, as well as the generally negative images of certain Islamist parliamentarians. Morsi’s own lack of charisma only made matters worse for the Brotherhood.
Half of Egyptians Want A Secular State
Results also indicate that a significant percentage of Egyptians oppose Egypt becoming a religious state, since the almost all supporters of Shafiq, Sabahi and Moussa (approximately 54% of the voters) are supporters of a secular state. A small percentage of Aboul Fotouh supporters could be also added to the latter group, as they claimed they voted for him on expectations that that he would not adopt strict sharia laws and would allow significant personal freedoms. Many Aboul Fotouh supporters regarded the Muslim Brotherhood candidate as too radical for their tastes.
Shafiq Could Win Picking Up Sabahi and Aboul Fotouh Votes
Shafiq (24.5%) has a good chance to win the final presidential race, as he will certainly gain the support of the Moussa supporters (11.5%) and another percentage of those who voted for Sabahi and Aboul Fotouh – mainly because they are opposed to the Brotherhood. Additionally, most Egyptians who did not vote this time around will likely oppose the Islamists in the final round of voting; that is, if they supported the Islamists, they would have been driven to the elections merely out of religious motives and vote for the MB candidate. Thus, not participating in the second round of voting would indicate that a person was not religiously motivated. If Shafiq manages to move some of the latter group of voters to show up at the next polling, he could gain a winning edge over Moussa. All of this is to say that winning the presidency will not be a piece of cake for the Brotherhood, in spite of the predictions of many.
Shafiq Could Lock The Vote If Sabahi Gets VP Slot
Shafik can guarantee success in the final presidential race if he convinces Sabahi to serve as his vice president. This way, he would likely to have the votes of his own supporters 24.5% plus those votes that went to Moussa (11.5%) plus most of the votes that went to Sabahi (18%). At first glance, it might seem implausible that a former guard of the Mubarak regime might form a coalition with a left-wing Nasserist; however, consider that Sabahi has previously expressed his huge respect for and friendship with Shafiq. Both differ significantly on several political issues, but they share a clear desire to oppose making Egypt a religious state.
Liberals Should Vote For Shafiq To Preserve Their Interests
The real challenge facing the liberal wing in Egypt (i.e., those who oppose a religious state controlled by a strict Sharia law) is their lack of unity. Several liberals are ready to support the Muslim Brotherhood candidate in the final race against Shafiq, whom they regard as a replica of Mubarak. Unfortunately, this scenario would amount to a repetition of history, when during the Iranian Revolution, liberals supported Khomeini against the Shah, which resulted in the extreme suppression of their own freedom for decades. It would a big mistake for Egyptian liberals not to support Shafiq against Morsi, as this could transform Egypt into another Iran–or worse.
If Morsi Wins, He’ll Face Stiff Resistance
Even if Morsi wins the final race, the election results indicate that he will face fierce resistance if he tries to turn Egypt into a Wahhabi- or Iranian-style government, as a huge percentage of the population (at least 58% or those who supported Shafiq , Sabahi and Moussa) voted clearly in support of a secular state.
Military Could Tilt Scales Toward Secular State
The division of Egyptians into two contradictory major sectors – i.e. those who want the country to be led by strict Sharia laws and those who want a secular state – carries the potential risk of civil strife, as the views of both groups totally contradict one another on some very basic issues. Liberals are happy that Islamists practice their faith in the mosque, while Islamists are not ready to give liberals their basic freedom. In such a situation, the strong presence of the military as an independent political player could interfere in support of a secular state, should the worst happen.
Shafiq Would Be Foolish To Repeat Mistakes of Mubarak
If Shafiq ultimately does win the presidential race, it is unlikely that he will repeat the same mistakes of Mubarak, as he has learned the lesson from the revolution: After the January 25 Revolution, the rules of the political game have changed.
In brief, the results in the first round of the Egyptian presidential race give more reason to hope that a secular president will ultimately rule the country, but it is the final round that will determine the future of the country and carry the most impact not only for Egypt, but for the rest of the Arab world.
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Dr. Tawfik Hamid is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and one time Islamic extremist from Egypt. Some twenty-five years ago, Dr. Hamid recognized the threat of radical Islam and the need for a reformation based upon modern peaceful interpretations of classical Islamic core texts. Dr. Hamid's work focuses on providing a fresh and theologically valid interpretation of the Quran to counterbalance radical teaching. Currently Dr. Hamid is a Senior Fellow and Chair for the Study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Dr. Hamid is also the author of Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam.