By Connor Shirley
Egypt was one of the first countries to follow the example of the Tunisian revolutions. Merely ten days after Ben Ali fled Tunisia, Egypt became embroiled in a wave of self-immolation and mass protest which met violent police crackdowns. There were many civilian deaths leading up to the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, including over 200 just in Cairo itself. However, Mubarak leaving proved to be no panacea to the ails of the Egyptian populace. The Egyptian military, which was very influential in removing Mubarak, refused to surrender power to the people and has attempted to control any new form of government that is proposed.
Throughout all of Egypt’s revolution, there had been large numbers of people camped out in Tahrir Square, a location that has been known informally as “Liberation Square” since the Egyptian Revolution of 1919. Unfortunately, after Mubarak’s resignation, the army invaded the square and destroyed many of the encampments of the people protesting the general’s reluctance to allow change to take place. The surrounding areas, such as Libya and Syria, watched nervously as an apparently successful revolution stalled and appeared to retrogress.
Fortunately, over the past two days, elections have been held in Egypt. And not only were the elections apparently fraud-free, they were almost entirely peaceful. At the end of the election sessions, there were a group of ‘thugs’ who attacked the protesters still in Tahrir square and injured several people, but compared to the large scale violence and disruption previously seen by Egypt, I believe it is safe to say that the elections are a success. At this point, whatever the outcome of the elections is almost inconsequential to the simple novelty of an election in Egypt. Egypt has never seen anything like this before, and moving forward the populace will be dealing with things never before considered by their public policy makers.
The only concern I have about the elections is what they have revealed about the mindset of the people. The Salafis, a group many western scholars consider to be a right-wing conservative fundamentalist Islamic group, are going to be a large part of the new government. On top of that concern, the Muslim Brotherhood, who is leading in the current polls, is pushing for a reinstatement of Shariah law, which would return Egypt’s courts to the traditional Islamic law system. I believe that the return to this system of law would be detrimental to the progress the Egyptian people have worked so valiantly for and also that many of the western countries will view this as a ‘failure’ of the revolution. However, if it is what the people want, and if we truly value the ideals of democracy, we must embrace whatever the people of Egypt decide, even if it’s a system of law that has seen only minor changes for the past 600 years.