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What, Me Pessimistic? Egyptian Election Outcome is Worse Than I Expected

Tahrir Square protester, January 2011

Tahrir Square protester, January 2011
Photo Credit: Floris Van Cauwelaert

Since last February I have predicted that the Muslim Brotherhood would win elections in Egypt. People have thought me very pessimistic. Now the votes are starting to come in and…it’s much worse than I thought. But my prediction that the Brotherhood and the other Islamists would gain a slight majority seems to have been fulfilled and then some. According to most reports the Brotherhood is scoring at just below 40 percent all by itself.

Why worse? For two reasons:

First, the votes we now have come from the most urban areas of the country. If there are Facebook sophisticates they’re going to be in Cairo and Alexandria. If the moderates do that bad in the big cities, what’s going to happen in the villages up the Nile? If the fascist party came in first in some European countries Social Democratic districts you know you are in trouble.

The Brotherhood came in first in Cairo and Alexandria. Think about that. Of course there are millions of migrants from rural areas in those places but that’s also where the middle class, such as it is, lives.

Second, the moderate parties didn’t even come in second they came in third or close to it. The Salafists—that is people who are even more radical than the Muslim Brotherhood—came in second. That they did that well is a surprise. That they did that well without bumping the Brotherhood down a notch is really shocking.

Estimates for the Justice Party, the Facebook kids of January are getting 5 to 10 percent. Even together with the other two main moderate parties that means the liberals won’t be able to block anything. Already the Brotherhood is tasting blood and talking about pressing the army junta to accelerate the turnover of power.

It’s hard to see, though that there can be any such transfer of power. The voting is far from finished and will be going on for about three months more, followed by a presidential election. Oh, yes, the results so far suggest that the Islamists will also win the presidency.

That’s when the fun really starts. President Barack Obama is going to face a challenge he is incapable of meeting since he doesn’t even understand what’s going on. He’s like a man who has been told that a ferocious lion is really a playful kitten and then tries to feed it by hand.

Or, to switch metaphors in the middle of the stream of thought, perhaps Dr. Frankenstein is a more apt image:

“`When younger,’” said he, `I believed myself destined for some great enterprise….I could not rank myself with the herd of common projectors. But this thought, which supported me in the commencement of my career, now serves only to plunge me lower in the dust. All my speculations and hopes are as nothing; and, like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell.’” –   Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

For the purposes of this election, Egypt has been divided into three sections and each section will have a second round. I predict the moderates will fail to work together and that the Islamists will thus end up doing even better than it seems now.

The Wall Street Journal correspondent is saying that the Salafists will push the Brotherhood further to the “right” and that’s a very sensible point. Why should the Brotherhood even pretend to be moderate when the people have spoken and they want Sharia with cherries on top.

So the Islamists won and the election was fair. Should we feel good that democracy has functioned and that the people are getting what they want?

Or should we feel bad that the people want a repressive dictatorship, the repression of women, the suppression of Christians, conflict with Israel, hatred of the West, and the freezing of Egyptian society into a straitjacket that can only lead to continue poverty and increasing suffering?

As the vote count becomes clearer, I’ll be refining my analysis but now we know: This is what [Egyptian] democracy looks like.

This article first appeared on RubinReports.

About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.


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