Writing the revolution’s obituary or planning its education?

Pretty quiet at Zamalek polling stations this morning. Older ladies, experienced now, come with stools for waiting in line – but barely need them.  It seems that people who are boycotting (spoiling their ballots as a protest vote) will tell you they’re doing so; Morsi voters will tell you they are voting for the Brotherhood; but people who are voting for Shafiq (like one Coptic colleague I ran into, who displayed her inky finger but wouldn’t tell me how she voted) will sometimes hide their shame behind the sanctity of the secret ballot.  (Others brag about it, couching their decision as fear of the MB or a reasoned critique of Brotherhood hypocrisy.)  It seems likely Shafiq will win.  Somehow the logic of “preventing an Islamist takeover” by counterbalancing the MB parliament, sold very hard by the Shafiq camp in recent weeks, seems to have outlasted that parliament itself.

But I could be surprised.  I haven’t seen any journalist be entirely right about any phase of this election process so far, starting with mis-predicting the parliamentary vote last fall (overestimating the felool voice, undercounting the Salafis) and of course continuing into this presidential process. Did anyone predict the runoff would be between Morsi and Shafik?  (On walls in Zamalek you can still see, ripped and tired now, posters of Amr Moussa and Abdelmoneim Abolfotouh – remember them?)

Was jet-lagged last night so got to read various wrapups of the revolution: either flat-out obituaries (including Sarah Topol’s cogent piece from 10 days ago, before the parliament was dismissed, this analysis of voters’ impossible situation between the known evil and the feared one, and a bunch of articulate folks self-criticizing to the NYT) or attempts to spin the Bitter Choice into something positive, or at least take stock of the lessons supposedly learned.  Activists are, rightly, suffering from what they call “Tunis envy.”

Speaking of counterbalancing: If Shafiq wins, as people keep pointing out, the military will officially control all three branches of government again. It will not seem too early to write the obituary. One of the main “lessons learned,” one fears, will be about the futility of trying for change.



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