May 19, 2013
Dispatches From Cairo: The Dream Dissolves
Posted on Jun 15, 2012
The people are exhausted. The new ruling means that whoever wins the runoff, in addition to having no checks from a parliament or constitution, will control elections of future parliaments. The military rulers, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, as of now hold parliamentary legislative powers and the right to select the Constituent Assembly, the committee that will write the future constitution.
The majority of voters—the more than 50 percent who voted in the preliminary balloting for other than the two final candidates, Morsi and Shafiq—found themselves faced with choosing the lesser evil or not voting. Many non-Islamists were willing to vote for the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Shariah candidate,” Morsi, just to avoid falling back into the old regime. The usual tactics were used successfully; the media were saturated with propaganda in favor of the regime’s candidate, Shafiq, aiming at the easily swayed silent majority. Some sided with Shafiq in order to avoid rule by the Muslim Brotherhood, or a religion-based government.
As of Thursday, however, any preference appears to be moot in the face of the undiminished control of the longtime ruling power structure. “Choice” has been revealed as only a futile exercise in social comment.
Shafiq has said that when he is elected he will put an end to all protests within 30 days and that he will execute as many of these “criminals” as it takes. This has caused fear among some of the population, but not as much as does the prospect of continued instability and economic hardship and fuel shortages.
The election between Shafiq and Morsi will take place as scheduled on Saturday and Sunday. While there is gossip about Shafiq’s strangely slurred interviews, well-known inarticulate speaking and the fact that he is still facing corruption charges related to his role in the Mubarak government, Morsi has not done well in handling the new turn of events.
In interviews Morsi contradicts himself and has said he will cooperate and compromise with the SCAF, hoping to avoid disqualification. Attempting to reach the people’s emotions, he has also claimed he will continue to fight for and represent the martyrs of the revolution. He has called for marches and demonstrations on Friday and declared that “we shall claim victory for the martyrs or we shall be martyrs too.” Even with that, he has lost a great deal of his following as people shun his sinking ship.
And so, with his back held up by the 60-year-old mountain of Egypt’s military-capitalist state, Shafiq remains reassuring to those who fear the Brotherhood and its secret extranational Islamist loyalties, those who fear all other unknowns, and those who long nostalgically for a strong leader who will take over the awful responsibility of governing.
But this is Egypt, and Egypt resists all predictability. The people can’t figure out if they are sad or relieved ... the next days will tell. Everything can change in a moment. The people here have ancient memories yet can forget their pain from one day to the next. A country so clever and so foolish, where most people live by the heart and not the mind, is full of contradictions and surprises and secrets.
And finally this is a land where the ancient and omnipresent dust that invades everything and eventually stops every motor and gear has gotten into the heart of the revolution. In the pale, gray dawn of Friday, calls for protest echo tremulously across the social media. People wait to hear what the imams will say to guide their passions; the imams themselves await divine inspiration. Despite the fatigue, many have tried to sleep but cannot, buffeted by thoughts of pointless martyrdom, their hopes and visions obscured by the sudden understanding that this, too, will be buried in the eternally shifting Saharan sand.
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