Egypt’s first free presidential elections have flung up a shock as a military representative of the former regime will fight it out with the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. This direct clash between diametrically opposed authoritarian and religious visions of Egypt’s future firmly marginalises the liberal and secular option. This kind of choice is absolutely not what the protestors in Tahrir Square were looking for when they toppled Mubarak’s dictatorship early last year.
Both candidates have predictably reached out to voters. Ahmad Shafiq, the former Air Marshal who was briefly transitional Prime Minster as Mubarak left power, has promised that “Egypt will not go backwards.” Mohammad Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood has called for all parties to help him “save the revolution” despite the Brotherhood’s refusal to take part in the Tahrir Square protests.
Neither man has much charisma, and Egypt’s new president will need a lot of personal power has he seeks to manage the creation of a new and inclusive constitution. Neither candidate looks likely to manage power very effectively, but then neither did Mubarak when he took over after Sadat’s assassination. Of course, he lasted 30 years but he is not an example that Egypt should follow.