Egypt’s 2012 election, Ahmed Shafiq versus Mohamed Morsi. Via Ahram
An Egyptian proverb claims that Egypt was built by a “Halawani” sweet maker, a reference to the Egyptians’ addiction to sweet deserts and sweet talk too. The making of modern Egypt, however, has always been engineered by mediocre officials with sour taste, men who have been obsessed with blurring reality and evading facts.
Now, on the fifth anniversary of the 2011 revolution, it is opportune to reflect on the diverse views of events over the past five years, and what went wrong (or right). Despite the differences in views, it is hard for anyone to deny how truth was the first victim of Egypt’s chaotic post-Mubarak transition. Egypt’s 2012 election, a crucial event in post-Mubarak’s Egypt, is just one example.
Last Tuesday, an Egyptian court annulled a former gag order imposed by General Prosecutor Hesham Barakat in October 2014 on all publications and broadcasts discussing allegations of rigging in the 2012 presidential elections.
The 2012 Presidential Election was a direct outcome of the January 2011 Revolution. It aimed to elect Egypt’s first civilian president since 1952. Five major candidates competed in the first round: Ex-FM Amr Moussa, Socialist Hamdeen Sabahi, ex-Muslim Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Morsi, and Ahmed Shafiq, the last Prime Minister of the Mubarak era.
It was an exciting, albeit tense drama. After a dull era during Mubarak’s tenure, Egyptians were engrossed in the charm of their country’s new political scene. They felt their vote was crucial to shape the country’s future. Many predicted that Amr Moussa and Aboul Fotouh would gain the highest votes, but most of the predictions and opinion polls were wrong.
In the first round, with a voter turnout of 46%, the Brotherhood’s Morsi got 25% of the votes and Mubarak’s last PM man, Ahmed Shafik, got 24%. Aboul Fetouh won 17%, and Moussa 11% of the votes. I was one of the very few who suggested Morsi and Shafiq were the strongest candidates. This was not because I had a crystal ball, but simply because I acknowledged that networking, particularly in the rural areas, was crucial for winning, and it was a game both Mubarak’s men and the Muslim Brotherhood had mastered.
The second round was harder to predict. The elections turned toxic as the electorate was forced to choose between an Islamist and a symbol of the old regime. A Guardian report had captured the voters’ dilemma. One voter explained why he planned to vote for Shafiq. “We can easily get rid of him if we want to, but not the Brotherhood, which will cling to power.” Another Islamist voter told the Guardian reporter, “If Shafiq wins, we will return to the street.”
Indeed, ahead of the announced day, Islamists gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo, while their backing TV channel, Al-Jazeera, started to announce its own alleged “exit polls,” claiming that Morsi was the winner. When Shafiq also declared he was the winner, the country’s ruling military council criticized the two presidential candidates for making premature claims of victory. After a delay announcing the results, a tense, gloomy-faced election committee declared that the Brotherhood’s Morsi had won by a very narrow margin. According to the formal results, Morsi received13.2 million votes out of 26 million; Ahmed Shafiq received 12.3 million
The formal results, however, never settled the alleged rumor that Shafiq was indeed the winner, not Morsi, and that “something” had happened in the last few hours before the results were declared to force the election committee to change the outcome.
Last June, in an interview with Al-Watan newspaper, a senior cadre in Egypt’s military intelligence, General Walid Al-Nimr, claimed that Shafiq had won Egypt’s 2012 presidential race. Following last Tuesday’s lifting of the media gag, the same newspaper, Al-Watan, published more details of what it alleged as fraud in the 2012 election. TV anchor Amr Adeib also voiced his concern and claimed widespread irregularities in a recent episode of his program. Amr Adeib also claimed that all his sources had indicated Shafiq was the winner up until the results were declared.
Does it matter what happened in 2012? Some may argue that the truth concerning the events of 2012’s election are irrelevant following Morsi’s ousting by the army under Abdel Fatah el-Sisi in July 2013.
But the events of the 2012 elections do matter. If Shafiq was indeed the winner, then the Brotherhood would have had two options: Either accepting the results, which would have saved them all the turbulence of 2013, or rejecting the results and embarking on violence. The latter course of action would have ruined their “alleged” popularity both inside and outside Egypt. After all, Morsi won only 25% of the vote in the first round of the election, and not an overwhelming majority.
One theory suggests that the military council feared anarchy and destruction if the Brotherhood supporters rejected the result, and there were divisions among the military council on what to do next.Egypt, however, does not need theories; it does need the truth.
Now, a court verdict in favor of Shafiq will strip the Brotherhood of their claim that the election was free and fair, a crucial part of their narrative. On the other hand, if the court affirms the 2012 result, then Shafiq’s future career will definitely be over, as he invested so much in this court case.
It is good to see the court annulling the previous gag order. Hopefully it will also call all involved players to testify too. All the witnesses of the 2012 election are still alive, from members of the military council to members of the election committee. That is crucial to prevent further rejections, rumors, and disputes concerning the court’s verdict.
Egypt has always had an opaque political scene. Clarity, accountability, and honest testimonies from major players have always been missing ingredients from Egypt’s modern history. Many disputed narratives have affected Egyptian perceptions of their previous rulers, from King Farouk to the Brotherhood’s Morsi.
As we lament the loss of our dreams and the revolution that once inspired the rest of the world, it is crucial to understand that democracy and opacity are mutually exclusive. A society that indulges in rumors, myths, and half-facts cannot achieve justice or freedom. We should demand to know the truth of what has happened since the day Mubarak stepped out of power. The Truth is never irrelevant; it is healthy and essential.