Pressure buildup

Large posters with defaced pictures of presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq and Amr Moussa with Arabic that reads "life has no value if the revolution's dreams did not come true, Mubarak is their idol." (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

A series of dramatic events in Egypt in recent days are, the expression goes, “nothing” compared to what is likely to come.

An official announcement detailing the results of the country’s landmark presidential election was expected to come Thursday, but the news of who will succeed Hosni Mubarak will have to be delayed further, as the committee supervising the polls said it needed more time “to study appeals” by the candidates.

The delay appears to be a case of adding even more tension to the suspense-laden situation in Egypt, which is expected to hit its next peak when the results are announced.

The saga began when leading political groups accepted an election process, for both the legislature and the presidency, while aware of the many defects involved. On the parliamentary track, the elections took place, but were cancelled last week by the Supreme Constitutional Court, sending supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist allies, which were the “winners” months ago, into an understandable rage.

Meanwhile, the presidential election, whose second and final round took place over the weekend, has proven to be just as frustrating. One side – the supporters of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammad Mursi – announced that it had won the poll this week, and, not surprisingly, this was followed by a similar announcement by the other candidate, former Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq, seen as backed by the military.

This means that whoever is declared the winner, around one-half of the electorate is fully mobilized to claim that the election has been rigged against them, laying the foundations for a truly tense situation.

Moreover, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in the wake of the presidential election, solemnly declared it would hand over power to the newly elected president, but also decided to issue its latest “decision” on what this president is entitled to do. This power grab is the latest sign that any hope of meaningful political change in Egypt is quickly disappearing.

Many segments of the population have made their outrage known by flocking to Tahrir Square, and the situation calls for the utmost level of wisdom by influential leaders in Egypt, whatever their political affiliation.

Few people should have an appetite for seeing the street emerge, once again, as the place where the future of Egypt is decided. The country’s wise men, from across the political spectrum, must come together to decide on a peaceful way out of the crisis. Otherwise, they will be ignoring the tremendous pressure-cooker that is taking shape before their eyes. Both sides in the presidential battle are mobilized for action, and are not expected to take the result, whatever it is, lying down.

The future of a country of 80 million people hangs in the balance, and the rest of the region, and the world, is watching a the latest act in the Egyptian drama unfolds.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 21, 2012, on page 7.




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