An advisor to Ahmad Shafiq, Vice President in the Mubarak regime and candidate in the run-off for Egyptian President: “The revolution has ended. It is one and a half years.”
The results in Egypt's first "free" Presidential elections are almost complete, with a run-off vote projected between Ahmad Shafik, a stalwart of the Mubarak era, and the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi.
The dreams of Egypt's reform-minded youth, who toppled Hosni Mubarak 15 months ago and ushered in an era of real rather than staged elections seem to be lost. In the run-off on 16-17 June, it will be the drama of dictators and Islamists that will be staged once again on voting day. Military power will win, as the Supreme Council of the Armed Force ensures that progress towards a true, liberal, human rights-respecting democracy is checked, no matter who is elected.
I have hope, though.
My old Egyptian roommate, Ahmed Rady, spoke at length to me last year about the situation in Egypt. One of his remarks stuck to my mind and I remember it to this this day: "The revolution was basically us, the youth, telling our parents we couldn't deal with this system anymore."
Today may appear to belong to the parents. Some chose Shafik because they believed in his promises of bringing law and order through strong-handed authoritarianism. Others voted for Morsi because they are not so enthusiastic about a non-conservative Egypt.
But the day still belongs to the youth who wanted real change. Not just the government, but the system of government. They may have lacked a candidate who seemed viable in this election but their fight still remains: the most important part of the struggle was not about removing the government but altering how governments would come to power in Egypt from this point on. Without the struggles and sacrifices of these youths, their parents, friends, and peers who did not share their aspirations would not have the privilege to make the choices they made this week.
That is the true testament to their power. Their voices may have been drowned out by the military's anatagonism and by those who watched as these kids took bullets for the right to vote. They, however, are still here. And so is the system they brought with their blood, tears, broken bones, mutilated bodies, missing eyes and violated virginities.
For all the concern expressed today, this system works better than the last one. Egypt's progress can be slowed, but it cannot be halted. Its march towards true reform and rights can be checked, but it cannot be stopped.
Democracy is here to stay. It may seem like it's not working right now, but it's the first semi-free presidential election ever. Give this democracy time to take up roots, to dominate, to become the only way of governance acceptable to all.
In time, the frightened generation of cowering acceptance will wither away. The children of today will become parents and when the time comes, all of them --- not just some of them --- will join hands with the children they have raised to respect reform, human rights, and democracy. They will continue to go to the polls, not to enshrine the obsolete faces of power but to improve the future beyond those faces.
Respect, Tahriris, respect.