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Hobson’s choice for Egyptians


rhondathompson, [email protected]

Hobson’s choice for Egyptians

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EGYPTIANS, electing their president freely for the first time, faced a daunting task not much better than Hobson’s choice.
It is between a former general from the old guard and an Islamist from the long suppressed Muslim Brotherhood, leaving many voters perplexed and fearful of the future.
A win for either Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, or Mohamed Mursi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, who would turn Egypt into an Islamic democracy, will go far to define the outcome of the wave of Arab Spring uprisings last year.
On Monday, it was impossible to forecast who would emerge the winner, who would inevitably face anger and accusations of foul play. Both men have widespread support, but many voters may have stayed away, disillusioned by a choice of extremes after centrist candidates were knocked out in the first round last month.
Unfortunately, the election is taking place against a backdrop of mistrust and confusion and in the absence of a new constitution that is meant to define the new president’s powers.
Last Thursday, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that part of the parliamentary election was unconstitutional and ordered the dissolution of the legislative body dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The move led to accusations that the military was seeking to frustrate the transition to democracy by staging a “soft coup”. A military council has been ruling the country since Mubarak’s ouster and is meant to transfer power to civilian rule by the end of the month.
The court’s ruling has the potential to send the country back in the direction of political uncertainty, underscoring the delicate balance of power between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military council.
It drew comparison with events that triggered the bloody Algerian civil war 20 years ago, but the Muslim Brotherhood, which showed restraint in the early days of last year’s Arab Spring, has shown little appetite for a showdown with Egypt’s army, the largest in the Arab world.
Many Egyptians fear that judges sympathetic to the former regime have overstepped their mandate and have unnecessarily plunged the country in danger. Taking into account the anger on the streets, Egypt may be up for another round of lawlessness and chaos.
The court’s decision to dissolve parliament, elected at the beginning of this year to great fanfare, on the grounds that the election law unfairly allowed political party candidates to run for seats designated for independents, usurps the power of the people.
To overturn the election results on technical grounds amounts to nullifying a popular mandate and reversing the democratic tide that began with the revolt against the Mubarak regime last year.
It is a blow to the Egyptian people’s craving for democracy and betrays the blood shed by hundreds of people who struggled to get rid of the old regime and could lead unwittingly to another revolution.

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