Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Activists, Egyptians at Odds over Ballot

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Activists, Egyptians at Odds over Ballot

Article excerpt

CAIRO -- The battle scars of the revolution that led to the end of Hosni Mubarak's regime continue to define the Egyptian landscape. The sides of buildings are adorned with graffiti mourning the nearly 1,000 civilians killed during the uprising. Protesters keep a stockpile of rocks in Tahrir Square, just in case they have to defend themselves while encamped there. The dated pictures of the 30- year ruler that once peppered the capital have been replaced with campaign posters for what was Egypt's first democratic election.

And yet during elections last week, just 15 months after Mr. Mubarak was forced to step down, many Egyptians voted for someone who has pledged to reinstate the very system they seemingly risked their lives to end.

How could that be?

While revolutionaries struggled Saturday to answer that question, there were clues that a rift between revolutionaries and the ordinary Egyptians had always existed and has been deepening since Mr. Mubarak left office. State media, the main source of information for most Egyptians, routinely blamed the state's growing instability on the revolutionaries, and in a nation where many voters had never met a revolutionary, they said they trusted state media more.

In addition, over the past year, the revolutionary effort was diluted by a splintered message, growing employment, worsened security and parliamentary elections that yielded little change.

By Election Day, the once politically passive group of Egyptians known as the Couch Party for sitting out of the revolution spoke up at the polls.

Ahmed Shafik, a former air force general and a known figure, is in the runoff election. He offered something immediate -- stability and leadership. The revolution, it seems, offered too much choice to a nation mired in uncertainty. In response, Egyptians voted for something familiar -- the government candidate.

"The lesson of the elections in Egypt in that people are not voting for a moral position, about how Egypt should be governed," said Zaid Akl, a political analyst at the Cairo-based Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic studies. …

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