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Egyptian elections—Who are the players? What to watch in the run-off

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UPDATE: Cole thinks the results are in, and the worse outcome below is assured. More here. Interesting analogy to the rise of law-and-order candidates in post-1960s America.

If the Arab Spring matters, the just-held Egyptian elections matter a lot.

So I want to put this on your radar as a reference. You're going to hear a lot about the dreaded Muslim Brotherhood from the straight press* soon, and this should provide some actual context for the actual news.

Who are the players in the Egyptian elections, and what are the alliances? Juan Cole at Informed Comment has an excellent background piece, "Egypt’s Presidential Election: Between Revolution and Counter-Revolution". Please do click over.

A partial read (my emphasis and paragraphing):
Egypt is on a precipice between a relatively smooth transition and a lot of social turmoil, depending on who the front runners are. But news is coming in as the ballots are being counted, and as I write on Friday [May 25], the race is too close to call. For profiles of the candidates, see my report earlier this week ...

Abdel Moneim Abou’l-Futouh, the “Muslim liberal” candidate who had broken with the Muslim Brotherhood, can be counted out. He has conceded, and has thrown his support to the Muslim Brotherhood leader, Muhammad Mursi. [click to read why Abou’l-Futouh faded; it's interesting] ... Abou’l-Futouh also had the effect of splitting the Muslim fundamentalist vote, depriving Mursi of a clear victory and damaging the Brotherhood’s image as a party machine juggernaut. ...

As I write it is mid-afternoon on Friday, and there is a reported surge for the leftist candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi. He is now said to be in second place, ahead of former Aviation Minister and Air Force General Ahmad Shafiq.

Sabahi won big in Alexandria, which had been trending fundamentalist, but which is a modern Mediterranean port city with a big, organized working class, who appear to have swung to him (perhaps along with a lot of government workers and the secular middle class, along with committed revolutionaries). Al-Nil television’s correspondent is reporting as I speak that Sabahi also took Port Said, a smaller port city. ...
With these names in mind — Muhammad Mursi (Muslim Brotherhood), Hamdeen Sabahi (leftist), Ahmad Shafiq ("law-and-order" ex-military) — here's Cole's mid-essay bottom line:
If Sabahi can maintain his narrow lead over Ahmad Shafiq, the resulting run-off will give Egyptians a choice between a leftist secularist and a Muslim fundamentalist, both of them from the opposition to Mubarak.

If Shafiq can pull back ahead of Sabahi, the resulting election would be a huge catastrophe for Egypt....
What to watch as the run-off is announced. If Shafiq gets to a run-off, Cole says there will be riots. Read the rest of the piece — it's fascinating and important.

*"Straight" — not an orientation reference. I'm resurrecting a hippie designation. "Straights" are those who eat what they're fed, buy what they're sold, and believe what they're told to believe. The straight press feeds you the Matrix explanation.


(To follow on Twitter or to send links: @Gaius_Publius)

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