Sometimes we just need to take our minds off things. As the shit-cycle of general election controversies sees its seeds being sown in this whole Romney/Rosen/Maher housewife calamity (the 2012 War-on-Women-driven version of the whole Pennsylvanians’ “guns and religion” episode in 2008), a refreshing reminder of how miserably sane our politics are can always be found abroad.
In America, we complain about tax rates and, subsequently, how inexplicably boring this election will be. Egypt, on the other hand, is more concerned with having an election, let alone the level of yawnage it could provoke. On Saturday, the presidential election commission of post-Mubarak Egypt eliminated, in one fell swoop, no questions asked, three frontrunners from a group of only five.
Omar Suleiman, Hazem Salah Abu Isamil and Khairat el-Shater all said goodbye to their chances of filling the power vacuum left on that fateful day of the Egyptian Revolution last year. Mathematically, and in true American fashion, that leaves two politicians still standing: Amr Moussa, former SG of the diplomatic Arab League and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, former head of the Muslim Brotherhood. FYI: The election is in a month, so it’s easy to imagine the scrambling that ensued.
The first of the candidates listed, Suleiman, was the former intelligence officer under Hosni Mubarak – so, naturally, everyone involved in the Revolution was a little worried when he entered the race at the beginning of this month. Although his campaign lasted just a tad shorter than that of Jon Huntsman, the intellects and protesters saw him as a even worse reincarnation of his old boss – he is a strident believer in what has been coined as “the old order,” which, on a ideological timeline, is everything in Egypt pre-Revolution.
This term connotes a belief in the quasi-democracy (harsh suspicions of the West and Islamists, an uncontrollable love for authoritative law and order, etc.) that Mubarak fronted and that the Revolution fought to end. Suleiman was unable to reach the 30,000 signatures – he had 29,969 – and they cut him faster then you can say ‘Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh.’’
Abu Isamil’s candidacy, on the other hand, fell fate to baby mama drama and the Egyptian dose of Tea Partyism. In this case, the baby mama was his own: after Mubarak’s regime fell, a law was installed that stated that a Presidential vier could not have any ties to American citizenship – quite strange coming from a movement that was fueled by the passion for human equality, freedom and Facebook. It was discovered that his mother had traveled the Atlantic and claimed nativity right before she passed away.
He was an ultra-conservative Islamist with a huge support base in the expanding Salafist population – a radical sect of Islam that has gained a reputation in recent months for attacking the Egyptian Christian Copts, both verbally and physically. In other words, not exactly the best support base.
With Shater, we have quite a different story. As the political strategist for the Muslim Brotherhood, the once-isolated Islamist group that slipped into power after the protests subsided by dominating the Parliamentary elections in January, Shater was supposed to be the centrist candidate. Somehow, he was held up by a ghost from his past: he had a trial conviction from the “old order.” One would think that, with Mubarak and his perturbed legal system out, the conviction would be deemed moot, but that the election commission would not.
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood have stated that they will continue to campaign as if this never happened. Still, the reasons behind the commission’s decision, as with the other two, are mind-numbingly trivial.
Though all three of the candidates are now appealing their electoral pink slips, what do all of these tales tell us? It can be said that the commission’s cut was unjust, but the decision here signifies something much greater about the country itself.
Egypt is a nation doomed to live under the transfers of power. Since the Revolution has ended, Egypt has been blindly handed over from Mubarak to the military and then to an all-powerful election commission that proved its authority in all of a few hours. The move was a symbol of the theme of Egyptian political life in a country described as “the beating heart” of the Arab Spring, which is the incomprehensible answer to a simple question: “Who the hell is in charge here?”