A high-ranking member of Hosni Mubarak’s disgraced government, or someone from the Muslim Brotherhood? It’s hardly an enviable choice — but that is the choice facing Egypt in next month’s Presidential election, after the official results of the preliminary vote were released yesterday. For obvious reasons, neither candidate much appeals to the freedom-loving younger generation that set the country’s revolution a-rolling in the first place. So, overnight, we’ve seen a return to protests, anger, fire, etc. This is still an immensely divided polity.
As grim as the situation is, it will come as little surprise to Spectator readers (or to anyone, really). The magazine has carried a number of articles detailing how last year’s Arab Spring has frozen into an Arab Winter, including this one by Douglas Murray, and this by John R Bradley. But I thought a quick recap might be worthwhile, so here are some short summaries for each of the countries whose rulers were forced from power last year:
1) Tunisia. The Islamist Ennahda Party came to power in elections last year, and has since made a show of living up to its ‘moderate’ label. However, there are still concerns about just how moderate they are. And that’s before we consider the hard-line Salafists who occupy 20 per cent of Tunisia’s parliamentary seats, and whose devotees are currently rampaging around the country with club, sword and torch; setting shops and police stations alight.
2) Egypt. See above. It’s also worth highlighting that the campaign headquarters of Mubarak’s former Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq, were set on fire — although some suspect that, with him being the ‘law and order’ candidate, he might have been behind that himself. He’s also a former army man, so his victory could bolster the military junta that is currently ruling over the country.
3) Libya. The last month in Libya has rather summed it up: the offices of the transitional Prime Minister were attacked by gunmen in Tripoli, and there’s now talk that the forthcoming elections will be postponed thanks to the vetting procedure for candidates. Whether it’s the country’s finances, or the power struggles that are still splattering blood on its soil, there is little room for optimism.
4) Yemen. Did you know that Ali Abdullah Saleh’s anointed successor, Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi, won February’s presidential election with 99.8 per cent of the vote? Hm. But, in truth, the country faces more pressing problems than those of political legitimacy. Not only is there is the on-going presence of Al-Qaeda, who claimed responsibility for last week’s suicide bomb attack that killed 100 people, but there’s the prospect of a major food crisis as well.
Of course, it’s the nature of democracy that countries get what they vote for — but in the case of the Arab Spring countries there are plenty of reasons to doubt the ‘democratic process’ so far, and even more to fear that democracy will soon be eroded again. The question that stands out now, amongst many others, is whether last year’s revolutionaries will keep on fighting. And that’s the really unenviable choice that underlies the situation in Egypt and elsewhere.