It’s still not clear who will be Egypt’s new president, but the Muslim Brothers have announced a second revolution if their man doesn’t win. And the military is on heightened alert.
In a little back room in a Cairo apartment building, Badr Mohammed Said has set up his small TV set. He is a bawab by trade, a security man and handyman who helps around in the house. He knows everybody in the building: he helps carry shopping bags, does little repair jobs and the maintenance for the air conditioning. On his small TV, he watches the EURO 2012. He is an avid supporter of the German team in the soccer championships. But he’s even more interested in the new Egyptian president and will switch channels as soon as there are new developments. “I’m concerned that the results haven’t been announced yet”, says Said. “That only increases tension.”
Dead Egyptians and soldiers on electoral list
The official announcement as to who will be Egypt’s new president should have been made on Thursday. But then the head of the electoral committee, Farouk Sultan, announced that the results would be published on Saturday or Sunday. The committee says it is still dealing with claims of vote-rigging.
As in the past election rounds, there were names on the electoral lists of people who had long since died, and some people were listed twice. The lists also contained names of soldiers – who aren’t actually allowed to vote in Egypt. The supporters of Islamist candidate Mohammed Mursi accuse his rival Ahmed Shafiq of allegedly buying votes. Shafiq was the last Prime Minister under ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
He in turn accuses Mursi of having preprinted some 1.5 million ballots so that voters had their crosses in the right place. These are some 1.5 million votes that could determine the future of the country. If the electoral committee, made up of former Mubarak supporters, deducts the votes from Mursi’s results, then Ahmed Shafiq will become Egypt’s new President.
Altogether there are some 400 complaints the committee has been dealing with for four days now. But during the first round of the presidential election almost a month ago, the number of appeals was five times higher. Even so, the results were published two days after the polling stations were closed. Mohammed Khalifa from the Muslim Brotherhood is skeptical. “They know who the winner is. And they refuse to publish the result,” he says.
Muslim brothers stake their claim
For Mohammed Khalifa, it’s clear who won the election. Mohammed Mursi declared himself the winner as soon as polling stations had closed. He said he’d got some 52 percent of votes – a narrow win. But Shafiq also claimed victory, with some 51 percent of votes. The Muslim Brothers meticulously noted down their results – constituency after constituency, polling station after polling station. It’s all in one book.
The Muslim Brothers have staked their claim, and they’re relying on pressure from the public. So what if the electoral committee disallows the Muslim Brothers’ votes and what if the Military Council publicly declares Shafiq president? “That would be a military coup,” says Mohammed Khalifa. “We wouldn’t accept that. We’d take to the streets and start a new revolution.”
The Military Council is aware of that. It seems as if they are publishing the election result late so that they have time to transfer security personnel and military vehicles. The interior ministry is said to have deployed an additional 3,000 soldiers to Suez alone, a town on the Red Sea coast east of Cairo. Officially, their mission is to protect police stations. There are similar reports about a heightened state of security from activists in other places across Egypt.
Eye-witnesses also describe having seen dozens of military vehicles on their way from Cairo to Alexandria Wednesday night. On Twitter, rumors are spread that a nationwide curfew may be imposed as soon as the election results are published. That would mean that the police could arrest anyone who dares step on the street. These scenarios are reminiscent of the revolution 16 months ago.
Egyptis in political turmoil: night after night, protesters take to Tahrir Square to demonstrate against the dissolution of Parliament and against any restrictions to the president’s powers. Meanwhile former President Mubarak is said to be fighting death. But many Egyptians are skeptical, like Badr Mohammed Said, the janitor in the apartment building. “The Military Council is trying to distract us from what’s really important.”
A medical miracle?
It does seem a bit suspicious that Mubarak is always close to dying whenever the political situation in the country gets particularly tense, and just ahead of major milestones. In the course of the last three weeks alone, Mubarak almost died three times, according to his doctors. If you trust his lawyer, Mubarak’s heart stopped beating seven times over the last 20 days. Plus, he’s had two strokes. “I hope that my doctors will be just as efficient when my time comes,” jokes @SanumGhafoor on Twitter.
These are important days for Egypt, where more is at stake than whether the former ruler will survive or not. The question is whether the army will succeed in holding on to power, or the Muslim Brothers and revolutionaries unite to take to the streets again. These are decisive days.
And what if there is a second revolution? “Then we’ll barricade our house again”, says maintenance man Said. He looks after 42 apartments and intends to protect them all – just like he did 16 months ago. “God willing nothing will happen to us in this house, and God willing, the next revolution would be the real one.”