Saturday, 16 June 2012

Which is the Lesser of Two Evils?

Egyptians today know they are voting for the lesser of two evils, but have a hard time determining which is the lesser. This is how part of my family in Egypt voted today in the presidential election run off : one couple went together to the polls together to cancel out each other’s vote. He suggested to his wife that they should spare themselves the hassle in the heat and just stay home, but she was determined to go to the polls, so he reluctantly had to go himself just to counter her vote. Although she had been a staunch supporter of the anti-Mubarak revolution, the wife voted for Shafiq, because she loathed the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Morsi and all he represented even more. Although he equally opposes an Islamist takeover, the husband voted for Morsi, on the basis that the people could always oust the Brotherhood, but could never oust the military, who wield the ultimate power and can only be minimally counterbalanced, at best. The critical factor in the husband’s reasoning is that the powers of the president have not yet been defined, and it is clear that the military is waiting for the outcome of the election: if Shafiq prevails, the military will define the powers of the president as virtually limitless, in other words Mubarak’s dictatorship on steroids; on the other hand, if the Islamist wins, the role of the president will be defined in the most limited terms possible. That rationale is not without merit.
Either way, many, even most, Egyptians are voting for the lesser of two evils, however they define the outcome. There is blame to be assigned on every side: the Muslim Brotherhood, unarguably, overreached in trying to control both the legislative and the executive, and in so doing spooked a sizeable proportion of the population. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is making an even more naked grab for complete power, and is prepared to nullify elections results and squash dissent unmercifully: not a single officer, high or low, has been held accountable for the brutality exercised against demonstrators and the deaths that resulted from it.
Then there are those who are opting out altogether, and heeding the appeal by famous writer Alaa Aswany who makes the analogy that, when a team realizes that the game is rigged, the only option is to stop playing, rather than legitimize the fraudulent victory of the opponent. Vote, opt out, cancel each other’s votes: no good options, no good outcome for Egypt today. So there are those post all over their Face Book pages: Pray for Egypt!

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