Presidential Elections in Cairo – Egypt Has a New Pharaoh

I have a room with a balcony over Talaat Harb Square. I always liked this part of Cairo. A short walk from the bus station, from the Egyptian Museum, and from Tahrir Square, where three years ago – when I last came in Egypt – young man and woman gathered to demand freedom and civil rights. This time when I arrived in Cairo Tahrir Square was the shadow of a symbol which lost its meaning. It was empty.

But not today. Today – Tuesday, June 3 – Tahrir was crowded once again, with thousands of man and women, children with the national flag’s colours painted in the face, the same flag waving from the cars’ windows. The people are dancing to Boshret kheir – ‘Good omen’ – the song played in the last few days in any corner of the town.

Today the people celebrate the new pharaoh, the man who ousted the islamists and gave new hope to the country. The army leader – ‘ex’ just for formal reasons as imposed by the new constitution – who promises stability and safety. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. The winner of the last elections, the second ones since the beginning of the revolution in 2011. The candidate who gained over 90 per cent of votes – votes gathered with great difficulty from slightly more than 40 per cent of the electorate.

Already before the elections started – on Monday, May 26 – everybody knew who would win. But they couldn’t imagine the figures. Hamdeen Sabahi, the left-winger opponent, was there just to make it look like a real election. The real enemy was the boycott.

Talaat Harb Square - Cairo, Egypt

Still supporting the ‘only true president of Egypt’ Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood – labeled as terrorist group by the interim government – called for the people to desert the ballots. Since July the Brotherhood has been accused for hundreds of clashes, many of which caused the death of policemen and soldiers. But no official claim ever arrived. There was no need for official claims, instead, for the violent repression in August, when the army led by Al-Sisi killed hundreds of disarmed Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators.

But not everyone who boycotted the elections can be held sided with the islamists. Young people and students, the heart of the revolution, did not let their voice hear. Disappointed by Adly Mansour’s interim government, outraged by the detention of hundreds among activists and journalists, the future of Egypt refused to take part in the democratic process. Not in this way, at least.

Among the many oppressive resolutions contested by the young Egyptians, there is the infamous law against demonstrations, thought to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood’s gatherings and widely misused to prevent any kink of public protest. And if someone thought that after the elections life would get back to normal… we first need to understand what is ‘normal’ in Egypt.

Al-Sisi – who never spoke out about his political plans, never gave an interview and never appeared in public – made one thing clear: no one will be allowed to stand in the way of stability and safety. The anti-protest law will stay, the demonstrators will be persecuted. And this, in Egypt, is perfectly normal.

‘We are not ready for democracy – stated a friend of mine while sitting in a shisha bar – Egyptians need a strong leader, able to command and protect us.’

On the first day, when the votes didn’t count for more then 6 millions out of 56 millions voters, prime minister Ibrahim Mehleb called for national holiday on the next day. The salafist Nour Party – an ultra-traditional islamist group whose siding with Al-Sisi nobody understands, not even the supporters themselves – volunteered to drive elders and incapacitated to the polls.

On Tuesday came the news everybody expected: the show would have gone on for a third day. All the efforts didn’t change the fact that many Egyptians just didn’t deem it worth to participate, but it was enough to bring over twenty millions votes to the new president, the first one to receive the power from the outgoing one, and not because of his death or removal as it always happened in Egypt’s history.

After three years of revolts, fights, uncertainty and fear, the land of pharaohs is looking for a saviour, and right now this seems to count more than any revolutionary ideals. The election of Al-Sisi has arrived without any major disorder, but it’s his doing from now on which will determinate the fate of Egypt.

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