Work on the Egyptian Presidential Election
Adam Shatz at the London Review of Books, writing about the presidential election in Egypt:
The results, however, are not encouraging to Egypt’s revolutionaries. The run-off in June will be a highly polarised contest between the two faces of the old order, a Mubarak loyalist and a Muslim Brother, one promising a return to ‘security’ (if not Mubarakism) after 15 months of turbulence; the other preaching that Islam is the solution. (Shater had shelved such talk; Morsi restored it, partly in order to win the support of Salafist voters.) In an eloquent recent talk at New York University, the Cairene historian Khaled Fahmy argued that the Egyptian uprising aimed to overthrow not only the military order that came to power in 1952, but an older, more deeply embedded tradition of Egyptian patriarchy. For many of the revolutionaries – particularly progressive young people and the country’s emboldened trade unionists – that is indeed the case. But centuries of paternalism do not crumble overnight. The consoling words of the Brothers and the old regime, both of which promise a return to something like normalcy after more than a year of volatile street politics, seem to resonate with many voters.And, via Jadaliyya, a great visualization of the results:
And for more on the success of Hamdeen Sabbahi, Ekram Ibrahim writes:
The core message of Sabbahi's campaign is social justice and a good life for all Egyptians. In a country in which forty percent of the population live on less than two dollars a day, these messages resonate.
“My campaign is for all Egyptians and especially a campaign for the poor and the alleviation of the struggle between the classes,” Sabbahi repeated in different press conferences. Sabbahi also promised a rise in salaries for most working citizens if he won the presidential elections. "Many of middle class citizens, the poor, workers and peasants voted for Sabbahi," Gamal Fahmy, a Nasserist columnist told Ahram Online.
It is not only economic reasons that lie behind the support for Sabbahi. For many, Sabbahi was the only viable candidate who was neither feloul (a 'remnant' from the former regime) nor Islamist. Some Egyptians fear Islamist control over the presidency and the parliament and what the impact would be for personal freedoms. Meanwhile, others who voted for the Islamists in the parliamentary elections have been disillusioned by their poor performance.
UPDATE [9 June 2012]:
A friend forwarded along the link to a really interesting piece [Elliot Colla, "The People Want", MERIP] on revolution in Egypt -- or more precisely on the ways that the protestors come to develop a repertoire of slogans. Focusing in particular on the slogan, "The people want to topple the regime," the article outlines the genealogy of that phrase. Neither spontaneous nor ex nihilo, that phrase has a very specific cultural and political field. However, the very history of the phrase that makes it so effective also opens it up to potentially contradictory meanings:
And so it goes. The slogan has served as the discursive scaffolding for hanging every new demand, even though if taken in sum, the above demands might seem incoherent and at times contradictory. This history of slogan repertoire highlights the fact that while repetition is the strength of performance, it also marks a weakness.
The closing paragraph notes:
What is at stake in this slogan is this representation of the heterogeneous classes and factions of Egyptian society and what they want. From the very beginning, revolutionaries have been quite aware that their success depends on their ability to control the metaphor of the collective singular, “the people.” But by now, every other political force also understands this reality: There is no political claim that is not made in the name of some image of the people and its revolution. Even counter-revolutionaries -- such as the Muslim Brothers, business elites, salafis and the army -- understand this game and play by its rules. The logic of repertoire says nothing about the coherence or truthfulness of claims -- it respects only success. Given the success of popular claim making, no party to the revolution can afford not to speak in the name of the people, and it is unlikely that this slogan will disappear anytime soon.
It's something I've been thinking about a little -- not so much in the context of Egypt as in the context of Turkey. Namely, how is it that we come to constitute something that might variously be termed 'the people,' the 'halk,' or a 'public'? But that's a different story, for a different day.