A Look at the Egyptian Elections and the Possible Outcomes


The Arab world will see its first free presidential election in Egypt this week as the votes are counted after Egyptians went to the polls on Wednesday bringing in a new era for the country. So what can we expect after those votes are counted?

According to Thanassis Cambanis, a columnist at The Boston Globe, fellow at The Century Foundation and teacher at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, the first challenge the country will face is the integrity of the voting process. If they make it past that stage, the top two finishers of the vote will go to the runoff in June which will decide Egypt’s future president.

Cambanis points out that because there is no precedent for a presidential election in Egypt, there is no meaningful way to make any predictions other than some educated guesswork. There are so many candidates with at least five candidates showing significant follower numbers. Essentially this means that the field is wide open and he believes that the major constituencies will be split among rival candidates from the four main players: the Islamists, revolutionaries, law-and-order nationalists and liberals.

While nothing is clear, Cambanis does offer some possible outcomes of the runoff and the implications they could present:

  • Felool runoff: Moussa vs. Shafiq.

Felool refers to the “remnants” of the old Hosni Mubarak regime. These two candidates were both in positions of power during this regime: Amr Moussa is the former Egyptian foreign minister while Ahmed Shafiq is an ex-general. Cambanis believes that if these two had to top the polls, it would be the worst possible scenario as the country would face more protests from Islamists and secular revolutionaries who might believe that the political ground they had gained with the Tahrir uprising could be under threat. Such a result may lead to further uncertainty and violence.

  • Islamist runoff: Mohamed Morsi vs. Aboul Fotouh

Cambanis states that if this runoff were to occur, there would most likely be a “surge” of support for Aboul Fotouh as he is more conciliatory and moderate than Morsi. However it is possible that non-Islamist politicians may see their secular principles as being under attack and decide to employ obstructionist tactics.

  • “Glass half full” runoff

This scenario presents Cambanis’ view of what the best outcome would be. He says that this runoff would feature the candidates that would be acceptable to the majority of Egyptians and unlikely to face a public insurrection, allowing him to govern without the public outcry which could accompany other scenarios. Included in this runoff are Aboul Fotouh, Moussa and Hamdeen Sabahi, a favourite of the Nasserist revolutionaries.

  • “Wild card” runoff

Cambanis’ wild card runoff scenario takes into account the unpredictable nature of the voting process as well as the chance of a split vote. In this scenario, people could be faced with the unexpected such as Sabahi vs. Moussa or Shafiq vs. Morsi. In such a case, many people would be left without a candidate they feel reflects their best interests and the generals currently in power could simply distrust both and end up organising a power grab.

A look at the above scenarios may paint a less than comforting picture of Egypt’s future, but whatever the outcome, the fact that this presidential election is taking place at all is an historic event after the 30 year autocratic rule of Hosni Mubarak.

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