Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital is the focus of a giant let-down for many activists for change. They are deeply disappointed that the two most polarising and controversial figures in the race for the new presidency are the ones going on to a run-off vote. That is scheduled for June 16 and 17.
They had seen other candidates as more representative of their hopes. Many are furious that the deposed Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq will face the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets when the result of the election’s first round was officially announced on Monday.
The choice between a symbol of the military-based autocracy of six decades and a figure from the Islamist movement it oppressed leaves voters like this feeling cheated: “Everyone in the square now, and I am one of them, is free of affiliations with any political party,” he said. “I do not need the remnants of the previous regime to appear again on the political landscape.”
The ashes of Shafiq’s campaign office show the strength of some protesters’ feelings towards the first round result. Shafiq’s law-and-order platform was meant to bolster his claim that he can end the turbulence that Egypt has experienced since Mubarak’s overthrow more than a year ago.
One voter in Cairo said: “We want to implement the law which bans anyone from the old regime from running for the presidency.”
Shafiq was Mubarak’s prime minister for just three months, until the leader fell, but before that he served as minister for civil aviation and as an air force commander. Those wanting a fresh start hold this against him.
Mursi’s supporters believe he and the Brotherhood are the best hope for reforming a corrupt state. The committee overseeing the vote rejected other candidates’ complaints, but secular-minded pro-democracy activists are appalled at the idea of supporting either Shafiq or Mursi.
In any case, surveys that predicted a duel between former Arab League chairman Amr Moussa and former Brotherhood member Abdel Fotouh were well wide of the mark. Turnout is another thing. It was less than 50 percent, and abstention for the second round is expected to be high. The number of Egyptians who feel someone stole their revolution keeps rising.
A young woman considering the political future said: “One more year or two years and we start another revolution, like the big one.”