“It’s a festive atmosphere here in central Cairo, more of a party than a poll,” the BBC’s Shaimaa’ Khalil reported. “Egyptian flags and posters of Sisi are the accessories of the day.”
It was not only central Cairo that was scene of the festive mood, but everywhere in Egypt when, last Monday and Tuesday, Egyptians lined up in huge numbers to elect as president one of the two contenders in the presidential race: Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and the leftist Hamdeen Sabahi. In elections pronounced by monitors, local and international, to be fair and free of any serious violations, millions of men and women queued to vote. Many took to dancing and singing, so joyful were they that Egypt was right on track to real democracy and they were freely having their say. Which is not to say that some, mainly Islamists and youth activists—insisted on boycotting the vote since they approved of neither candidate. What a contrast to the vote on the Islamist Constitution rushed in by the Muslim Brother President Muhammad Mursi in January 2012. Back then Egyptians lined up in grim silence to cast their ballot in a vote the result of which they knew beforehand, since the Islamist authorities in power were sure to see to it that the Constitution would pass whichever way.
No-one left out
It appeared no-one wished to be left out of the balloting. In Alexandria, the 30-year-old Suzanne Abdel-Qader went into labour as she lined up to cast her vote. She was rushed to hospital, and gave birth to a boy whom she named al-Sisi.
Aged persons headed to the polls on wheelchairs, insisting they would vote. In a polling station in Cairo, a woman made it not only wheeled in but with numerous tubes carrying medical solutions dripping through tubes and a cannula into her veins. To the amazed, wondering eyes of the people around she said, “I couldn’t possibly miss out; this is the day I so long waited for.”
Mothers and fathers took along their young children when there was no-one home to babysit. Watani’s Donia Wagdy stood in line with her 7-year old daughter for some 90 minutes till it was her turn to vote. Little Farah was so excited that she asked to be allowed to dip her small finger in the phosphoric ink that proved a person had voted. All the while, the father stood in another line carrying Farah’s toddler sister till he also cast his vote.
Security was tight, with the military teaming up with the police to make sure voters, polling stations, and all public utilities or buildings were safe from [Islamist] terrorist attacks. And sure enough, a few primitive, home-made bombs were found in a number of spots in the country. But, altogether, no substantial attack marred the ‘festivities’. The people did feel safe and, according to Kevin Connolly of the BBC, “The soldiers were greeted like The Beatles on their first US visit.”
Watani goes to press as Egypt awaits the official pronouncement of who their new president is. Preliminary results, though, indicate a sweeping Sisi win.
Only one step remains
With a new president sworn in, Egyptians would have achieved three of the four landmarks on their Roadmap to the Future. This Roadmap was drawn little less than a year ago jointly by various sectors of the civil society, the military, al-Azhar, and the Egyptian Church to chart the way to a democratic, modern State once the Islamist regime was overthrown on 3 July 2013. Egyptians had taken to the streets on 30 June 2013 in massive numbers, some 33 million, to call for the downfall of President Mursi who had come to office exactly one year earlier when he won by a very narrow margin a ‘democratic’ election whose result is still contested in court. Once in office, Mr Mursi effectively put an end to all democratic practice and made it no secret that his prime loyalty belonged not to Egypt but to the Muslim Brothers’ main goal of establishing a pan-world Islamic caliphate. Egyptians rebelled in what has come to be termed the 30 June 2013 Revolution. The military backed the people and Mr Mursi was overthrown four days later.
The same day Mr Mursi was toppled, representatives of the wide spectrum of the Egyptian community had gathered and drawn the Roadmap. The first step was to swear in an interim president, and Judge Adly Mansour who sat at the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court was sworn in on 4 July. The second was to establish a constitution to replace the 2012 Islamist constitution rushed in by Mr Mursi. In January 2014 Egyptians went out and sweepingly endorsed a new Constitution, widely seen as the best in the country’s modern history. And last week, Egypt elected a new president—the third achievement on the Roadmap. Now only the last step remains, that of electing a parliament.
Egypt will not bow to terror
A daunting task awaits the new president. First and foremost is the return of security on the streets. The breakdown of security, apart from lending a bitter taste of fear to the everyday lives of Egyptians, is blamed for the economic doldrums and the collapse of tourism which has always been a major source of revenue for Egypt. And Egyptians have the MB to thank for it; the terrorist operations they carry out have driven away the tourists and the investors as well.
“We want security first, then everything else will follow,” Manal Muhammad, a voter from the populous Giza district of Imbaba, told the Associated Press.
Even though Mr Sisi’s critics fear that, like past generals, he would be authoritarian, the majority of Egyptians believe the strong disciplined military man who promised to bring back the lost security is the perfect man to do so. “Egypt will not bow to terror,” a street poster of Sisi announces.
There are also the myriad economic problems Egypt is mired in. In his election campaign, Mr Sisi set out plans to develop agriculture, housing, education, impoverished areas and employment. “The challenges in Egypt are so many,” he said in an interview with Reuters. “I believe it will take us two years of serious, continuous work to achieve the type of improvement Egyptians are looking for.”
1 June 2014