Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Debate: The upcoming presidential elections will usher in a new beginning for Egypt | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page
Media ID: 55317157

Egyptian 6th of April movement members protest against the renewal of the state of emergency during a demonstration on September 16, 2013 in downtown Cairo (TOPSHOTS/AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA)

I believe we will see a change in the political landscape, and largely to the benefit of the “Couch party.” There have been attempts to rally the forces opposed to political Islam behind a single candidate in advance of the coming presidential elections, but this attempt has been weakened by differences of opinion. The civilian movement has proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that it is incapable of cohesion and unity on most issues, which makes it improbable that it will be able to rally behind a candidate opposed to political Islam.

Many of the forces opposed to political Islam have tried to convince potential presidential candidates to throw their weight behind a single nominee so as to avoid the same outcome as the 2012 presidential elections, in which civilian voters were divided between Amr Moussa, Hamdeen Sabahi, and Khaled Ali. This state of affairs led to the victory of political Islam’s candidate, despite the fact that Moussa and Sabahi had more than seven million votes between them. Sabahi’s insistence on running again will probably lead to a repeat of this scenario, so the new political reality in Egypt is one in which a candidate’s ideology no longer has the final word when it comes to election results.

Opposition forces cannot agree on one candidate, which leads to divisions that split the movement into competing factions and candidates. This is evident in the fact that the Tamarod youth movement, the Nasserist parties, the leftists and the rightists are split between Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, assuming he will run, and Sabahi.

Maybe political agreement on any single candidate is impossible because of the sharply polarized situation in Egypt of late, with internal and external forces exerting strong influence on the positions and decisions of the dominant political elites, and on their ability to exert quick influence on the orientations of traditional political blocs.

It could be argued that the chaotic electoral scene taking shape in Egypt will be uncontrollable for traditional civilian political factions, who miss no opportunity to underscore their inability to take a unified stance on any pivotal political issue. This state of affairs is not new for these political forces, and is inherent in their nature. It is a part of their legacy that they have not been able to shake off. They have been unable to reinvent themselves to take advantage of the social landscape in Egypt today.

I believe that the final word in the coming elections will come from a large voting bloc, the one which has not had a hand in political action or public affairs since the June 30 Revolution: the so-called “Couch Party.” It played the most prominent role in the overthrow of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood regime, and it still constitutes a cohesive group, as it has not suffered from the fragmentation afflicting traditional civilian powers.

Certainly, no political force opposed to political Islam will have enough influence to tip the scales in favor of one candidate or another. I believe the Couch Party will push Sisi towards the presidential palace in the first round of elections, because it exceeds 70 percent of the voting public.

So, while I am confident that the upcoming presidential elections will be a new beginning for Egypt, I am just as confident that they will serve as an indication of the changing reality of the parties that have led the political scene for years. They have proven that they are divided, addicted to failure, and unable to either influence or be influenced.

We can rule out, then, without hesitation, the possibility of civilian voters rallying behind a single candidate opposed to political Islam. Even if it did happen, the movement would remain weak and would not have the ability to influence events or steer the election in an unexpected direction.

The counterpoint to the piece can be read here.