CAIRO – Everything about Egypt’s revolution has been unexpected, and the first-round results in the country’s first-ever competitive presidential election are no different. The rise of former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, General Ahmad Shafiq, who will enter the presidential runoff alongside the Muslim Brothers (MB) candidate Mohamed Morsi, has raised eyebrows across the political spectrum. So did the meteoric rise of the Nasserist candidate Hamdin Sabbahi to third place, and the fourth-place finish of Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who was backed by liberals and hardline Salafi Islamists alike.
Egypt’s voters overwhelmingly chose the revolution over the old regime, and shattered the myth that the push for change is an urban, middle-class, Cairo-based phenomenon: the eight revolutionary candidates received more than 16.4 million votes. But their failure to unite on a single platform directly benefited Shafiq, who unexpectedly won 5.9 million votes (assuming no election-rigging).
Shafiq’s success shocked many revolutionaries. “He is a murderer. His place is in jail, not on top of Egypt after the revolution,” said one activist. Indeed, Shafiq has been linked to multiple cases of corruption and repression, including the “battle of the camels” on February 2, 2011, when Mubarak’s henchmen attacked Tahrir Square, killing and wounding protesters.
The rise of Shafiq is explainable in some areas, but raised eyebrows in others. In Upper Egypt, “more than 60% of Copts voted for him,” a source close to the Coptic Orthodox Church said, and in Coptic-majority areas, the pro-Shafiq vote exceeded 95%, because he was widely perceived as a bulwark against Islamism.