If you endured beatings, intimidation and arrests to bring about the end of a dictator's 30-year reign only to decide between his former crony and an Islamist to take over the country, you'd be upset too. That sums up some of the dismay felt by Egypt's liberal revolutionaries in wake of this week's presidential elections, which will pit polarizing figures Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist nominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ahmed Shafik, a former Air Force general who served as ex-president Hosni Mubarak's prime minister, in a runoff election slated for June 16.
As reality sinks in that the next leader of Egypt will either be an Islamist ideologue or another military strongman, the country's left-leaning factions have begun decrying the results. "I'm launching a vote-for-Satan campaign," tweeted Ashraf Khalil, author of a book on the revolution. "Why settle for a lesser evil?" Tareq Farouq, a 34-year-old cab driver speaking to Reuters, said he couldn't believe the results. "I am in shock. How could this happen? The people don't want Mursi or Shafiq. This is a catastrophe for all of us," he said. "They are driving people back to Tahrir Square."
Prior to today's results, there were no clear frontrunners but liberals had candidates they could enthusiastically support. "Many liberals were resting their hopes on a strong showing by Hamdeen Sabahi, the left-wing nationalist," reports The Telegraph's Richard Spencer, "whose late surge in the polls raised their hopes and who last night was still in with an outside chance of pipping Mr Shafiq for the second run-off place." Alas, Sabahi did not gather enough votes and disenchantment appears to be surging between those worried about a rise in Sharia law if Morsi takes the presidency and those concerned about another repressive dictator if Shafik wins out.
On the former possibility, a number of secular Egyptians told reporters they were concerned about an Islamic ideologue. "I am sure the Brotherhood will close us down if they get elected. They will ban alcohol," a bar-tender named Huda Husseini told Reuters. "According to them, dancing, drinking, music is all forbidden. Everything is forbidden." Echoing those concerns, Dalia Hamdi, a human resources manager in Cairo, told the news agency "This is not what we wanted or what we fought for. As a woman I am deeply upset." She added: "Definitely we won't be able to wear what we are wearing now," she said, referring to her sleeveless shirt and jeans.
Meanwhile, Abram Online reports that Ahmed Khairy, spokesman for Egypt's liberal Free Egyptians Party, says the runoff created "the worst-case scenario," describing Shafiq as a "military fascist" and Morsi as an "Islamic fascist."
"It will be very hard to endorse either of the candidates that made it to the runoff," he said. "The Free Egyptians Party, therefore, will either boycott the vote or leave the decision up to individual members, as had been the case in the first round of voting." Clearly, democracy is not perfect.