Egypt Simmers as the Generals Play for Time
Speaking to the BBC yesterday, retired Major General Sameh Seif el-Yazal revealed that he had been using a rather unorthodox methodology to sharpen his political antennae.
“Sometimes I use my crystal ball,” he said, referring to the debate over who will win the presidential election when the results are announced on Sunday.
“I have a crystal ball and I look at it in the evening and see the results. My crystal ball is telling me that Ahmed Shafik will win.”
Mr Shafik, the former fighter pilot and onetime Prime Minister under Hosni Mubarak, is believed to enjoy the political support of Egypt’s ruling generals.
He is also, according to data released over the past week, widely thought to have finished in second place to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi following the recent presidential run-off.
Official results were due to have been released yesterday. But in a move which has fuelled suspicions that something is amiss, the commission overseeing the poll has delayed announcing the final tally until Sunday.
Both candidates claimed to have won, but a group of judges who helped monitor the poll said on Wednesday that Mr Morsi’s victory speech was consistent with their own assessment of unofficial polling data.
Whatever the result, further unrest seems likely. A win for Mr Morsi would set up a confrontation with the military, whose leaders appear highly wary of Egypt’s political Islamists.
But an Ahmed Shafik victory could potentially be the most explosive scenario. Revolutionary groups have vowed to take to the streets if he is declared President, while the still powerful-Muslim Brotherhood would present a formidable opponent if he ends up winning.
Talk about an “Algeria scenario” – with Egypt’s Islamists launching an armed insurrection following a de facto military coup – has been dismissed as premature by many observers.
But the truth is that for those without the benefit of using crystal balls, the future appears impossible to predict.
Conspiracy theorists still accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of being in league with the military. But in reality, Islamist leaders finally appear to have realised that they and the generals are singing from two completely different hymn sheets.
Other unknowns abound. Who will win the presidential election? If Morsi, will he accept an office which has been emasculated by the recent military decree granting legislative powers to the generals? If Shafik, what will be the reaction of the street?
Will the new constitution end up being written by a parliament-appointed committee or a group selected by the military? When will fresh elections take place? Who will win?
Predictions are ten a penny in Egypt right now. But real facts – as ever – are sacred.