Americans used to democracy, US-style, have long faced the question of whether or not to vote for the “lesser evil.” Remember 1968? Nixon vs. Humphrey. Until today, on the left, especially among the holier-than-thou, the purest of the pure say a pox on both your houses, which didn’t work out so well in 2000, did it?
Egyptians, now dealing with democracy, Egypt-style, are figuring this out.
In Cairo, in the June 16–17 presidential runoff election, the choice is not very palatable. It’s between a candidate of the cult-like secret society called the Muslim Brotherhood and a candidate who carries baggage from the ancient regime, i.e., Hosni Mubarak et al.
Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood standard bearer, is the likely winner. A lot of secular, nationalist, Nasserist and leftist voters—i.e., the folks who led the 2011 revolution—are going to sit this one out, though the controversially light sentence handed down on Mubarak and his cronies has angered many of them, who may very well vote for Morsi in protest. In any case, their votes aren’t likely to be needed, since the Brothers have an effective GOTV effort and a political machine that is unrivaled. Already the Brothers control parliament (and another big chunk of parliament is under the control of the more radical Salafi faction), and they’re probably going to win the presidency, too. In the old days, when Mubarak warned that it was either him or the Brotherhood, a lot of democrats and Western liberals ridiculed him. Well, it turns out, he was right.
Morsi, meanwhile, said he’ll convene a conference to determine who the real perpetrators of 9/11 were.
His opponent, Ahmed Shafik, is a former general who served as a last-ditch prime minister during the revolution.
Suppose you had to vote in Egypt. There’s a case to be made for sitting it out, continuing to organize, supporting independent media and so on. But the protest votes have all been cast, in the first round, for a Nasserist, for a supposedly liberal Islamist (ex-Muslim Brotherhood), for Amr Moussa, etc. Now it’s time to choose.
If I were Egyptian, I’d vote for Shafik.
Not an easy call to make. But every vote for Shafik means that the Muslim Brotherhood’s mandate will be one vote smaller, which is a good thing. The Muslim Brotherhood is not a benign organization. Its politics is reactionary in every dimension: it’s backward socially, it’s militantly pro-free enterprise, it has close ties to Arab and Muslim reactionaries worldwide, and it’s likely to feather its own nest by supporting a network of Muslim Brotherhood–controlled businesses and “Islamic banking” networks that have tentacles from Saudi Arabia to Kuwait, Turkey and Sudan. If challenged, in the streets, the Brothers are likely to turn once again to street thugs, as it did during the 1930s and ’40s.
Not that Egypt’s military remnants are any better. Shafik had the support of the military and what’s left of the former regime, in the media and elsewhere, and he’s openly courting the establishment. But I don’t think that Egypt will allow a restoration, ever. The military council seems ready to get rid of the onerous emergency laws that were imposed in the early 1980s, and it’s not likely that Egypt will go back to a dictatorship as long as Egypt is so utterly dependent on US and European financial aid. In the end, anyway, Shafik isn’t likely to win, and a vote for him might at least help to clip the Muslim Brotherhood’s wings.
Not entirely without reason, Shafik is accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of supporting sectarianism and sharia. “I represent moving forward, they represent moving backward. I represent transparency and light, the Brotherhood represents darkness and secrets. Nobody knows who they are and what they do. I represent Egypt, all of Egypt. They represent a closed-up faction that accepts no one from outside.”
True enough, Of course, Shafik has darkness and secrets of his own. But it’s time to vote. He’s the lesser evil.
Of course, it’s one thing to vote as an Egyptian. For the United States and for the Obama administration, there’s only one choice: stay out of it.