This week has been a big one in Egypt, what with the first round of elections and now the sentencing of Mubarak. Of course, the real story of both will take time to play out, but now is the time to start asking questions. Looking at the election, the most obvious question is who will win? Second, what does it mean? What are the ramifications?

Well, I don’t know who will win and neither does anyone else – despite what some may say, there is plenty of room for the major actors to maneuver? Moursi and Shafiq are headed into a runoff  and it is unclear where the support from some of the losing candidates will go. We can reason that Foutouh’s supporters will go to Moursi, so that’s an additional 11% or so, but Sabbaha and Amr’s folks are more difficult to judge. Would they go to Shafiq either because they long for security or as a hedge against the Muslim Brotherhood! Or would they opt for the Brotherhood’s leadership as a means to secure democratic governance and “win” the revolution?

As always, the interests of the elites matter greatly, and the military remains the most powerful elite. So, who will they back? It would seem common sense that they would back Shafiq – he’s one of them after all, and there is the suspicious circumstances of his being able to run despite being a part of the former/current regime, having been removed from and the. Restored to the ballot by the Election Commission, and his receiving far more electoral support than anyone expected.

That all argues for behind the scenes SCAF support despite the assurances of international monitors (the voting itself might be without coersion, but that says nothing for the backroom deals being cut or the incentives being quietly offered). But we don’t know that any of those factors was necessarily from the SCAF. Shafiq has his own connections (which in many cases would overlap those of the SCAF), and it is always possible that there are no strings being pulled at all, that despite the hatred many Egyptians bear towards him, many also genuinely support him (military and their families vote too).

But whether or not the SCAF was backing him, is it safe to say that they would continue after the first round? I don’t think that can be a given. The SCAF is composed of a bunch of cagey operators that despite being unfamiliar with the ins and outs of electoral politics, who how to judge which way the winds blow and how to make deals. I think it quite likely that it could cut a deal with the Brotherhood to assure the maintenance of some of its privileges in exchange for governance. If that’s the case, we could well see a slow erosion of those privileges over time a la the AKP’s rise in Turkey. We’ll call this the more hopeful option.

But what might a Shafiq win mean? It is always possible that a Shafiq presidency could lead to a return to stability, either in a new democratic framework or as a return to the ancien regime, but I think it more likely that his victory at the polls would spell out civil war.

The Russian revolution began as a result of popular unrest and an insider government taking over in the name of the people, trying to act as a compromise to all parties. But they didn’t devolve enough power (or devolved just enough, depending on how you look at it), and the Bolshevik’s turned against their comrades and booted them out the door. I think the Brotherhood in Egypt have far too good of a network and have gotten far too close to what they are after to allow the SCAF to pull out the rug from under them now. Should the SCAF try and steal the election, they would revolt, and this time, they would see it through. They could do this via marshalling the populace and possibly through the inside. I have read and been told from some with more direct experience than I that the Brotherhood has support among members of the military, both among the rank and file members and among the all-important junior officer levels.

The SCAF are cagey operators, but we will have to see just how cagey.

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