Activists in Egypt return to the streets | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 30.05.2012
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Activists in Egypt return to the streets

Egypt's two main contenders for president are wooing voters across the country. But activists are back on Tahrir Square in Cairo. They are certain that the first round of elections was not democratic.

In Mohammed Morsi's headquarters in downtown Cairo, activists are proud of their presidential candidate. They stand in small groups in the large entrance hall and discuss which part of his speech was the most brilliant.

And indeed it was a Morsi like Egypt hadn't seen before who appeared before the press in a luxury hotel on May 29: rhetorically clever and inspiring, in a dignified yet modest manner.

Until now the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate for the Egyptian presidential runoff was derided for having the charisma of a mule. But now it's different. Morsi has big plans.

In the June 16-17 runoff, he doesn't only have to convince his own supporters, but also the three-quarters of voters who didn't cast their ballot for him in the first round last week.

The vision of his presidency resembles a wish list to which each Egyptian can add a few words. Morsi wants to restart the tourism sector and demands a minimum wage, he wants to leave it up to women themselves whether they wear a headscarf or not. And he is turning to the handicapped, youth and has vowed to appoint the country's Coptic Christians to key positions in his cabinet. Above all, he says, he wants to share his power.

"I want to be the president for all Egyptians," Morsi said. "That is why people of various political backgrounds should work together with me."

No faith in the Muslim Brotherhood

Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq

Mohammed Morsi, left, is running against Ahmed Shafiq

Morsi is making big promises. Many feel that he is mainly trying to snag votes among the secular, liberal camp and the revolutionaries. He is also negotiating with the candidates who fared well in the first round but not enough to make it to the runoff vote, like leftist Hamdeen Sabahi and moderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh.

Morsi is trying to forge new alliances - so far without success. But rumor has it from Morsi's headquarters that official alliances will be on the table by the end of this week. This will not pacify the revolutionaries, though. For many, the Muslim Brotherhood, just like Morsi's rival Ahmed Shafiq, is unelectable. Activist Rehab Al Adham said she found Morsi's speech was impertinent.

"The Muslim Brotherhood made so many mistakes in the last one-and-a-half years and I don't trust him," she said. "Morsi was not honest."

Protesting voter fraud

The birthplace of the 2011 uprising, Tahrir Square, is Adham's reply to the elections. Since Monday evening, when the electoral commission rejected allegations of voter fraud, activists have been gathering in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. They don't recognize the election results. Too many inconsistencies were verified.

For one, some 900,000 soldiers cast their ballots, although the law stipulates that they are actually barred from the vote. Also, five million more voters appeared on voter lists than during parliamentary elections four months ago. The activists are certain that these are the votes which catapulted Shafiq, who served as prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, into the second round.

Protesters wave their shoes during a protest against presidential candidates Mohamed Mursi and Ahmed Shafiq at Tahrir square in Cairo May 28, 2012.

Protesters took to the streets to show their opposition to the election results

Since then, there have been protest marches through downtown Cairo and ongoing demonstrations. Shafiq's campaign headquarters also went up in flames late Monday. Activists on Tahrir Square said this will benefit him in the end. But Mustafa Mohammad, from Shafiq's campaign team, said he is certain that it was the Tahrir protesters who lit the match. He anyway does not understand the demonstrators.

"Democracy was one goal of our revolution," Mohammad said. "And now the demonstrators are not recognizing the vote of five-and-a-half million Egyptians that voted for Shafiq?"

Mubarak's last prime minister as president?

For the activists, this is not what democracy should look like. But they still have hope. Shortly before the elections took place, the Egyptian parliament moved in fast track proceedings to ban former members of the Mubarak regime from the elections. The law is now before the constitutional court, has to be reviewed there and then the presidential electoral commission can decide whether Shafiq will be excluded or not. If that were to occur, reelections would take place.

An Egyptian man walks in front of a wall sprayed with graffiti, depicting the ruling military council controlling the presidential elections as a puppet show in Cairo

Activists say the military council controls the electoral process

But it is unclear when the court will make its decision - perhaps only when the elections are long past. Activist Shady Abdallah is already certain now that Shafiq will become Egypt's new president.

"The military council will influence the election so much that Shafiq will win," he said. Abdallah therefore plans to boycott the vote. "I will definitely be back on the streets, though."

Some fear that it will be too late then. Shafiq is known for his willingness to take drastic action. He already announced in the first round of elections to forbid demonstrations and see to "order" on Tahrir Square.

Author: Viktoria Kleber / sac
Editor: Michael Knigge

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