The Wind of Change Has Died

Egypt’s runoff election signals the end of revolutionary energy. The old regime has played its cards wisely and taken the wind out of the sails of the revolutionary project.

I wasn’t surprised when the former air force general Ahmed Shafik and Mohamed Morsy from the Muslim Brotherhood were announced as contestants in this month’s runoff elections for the Egyptian presidency. I could only smile and shrug my shoulders. What else would we have expected except the absolute worst?

The revolution in Egypt seems lethargic today, and almost as chewy as a strip of old gum that has been stuck to the pavement for months. Many developments of the past year were foreseeable. Shortly before the first round of voting in the presidential elections, a few Egyptian friends still laughed at the notion that the regime would produce a wild card at the last minute. Many expected that Amr Moussa, the former foreign minister, would become Egypt’s next president. I was skeptical whether transition would be as easy. It was to be expected that Ahmed Shafi would emerge on the scene as the icing on the cake of the old elites and as an unpleasant surprise for the revolutionaries.

Now, the choice is between the old guard or the conservative candidate of the Brotherhood’s “Freedom and Justice Party.” I had expected a great wave of political depression after the first round of voting. The nomination of Shafik and Morsy for the runoff election has indeed led many revolutionaries into a state of shock and mental paralysis.

I have been following the revolution since January 2011, and I have lived in Cairo for longer, just a few hundred meters away from Tahrir Square. I can feel it when public sentiments are changing. I can sense the stagnation of a political awakening. I see it when revolutionaries cry, when they lose hope and despair. When they are shaken by fits of anger, and when they are plagued by the feeling that nothing can change the dominant structures of Egyptian society. The old regime has truly done a good job.

I presume that the political elites of the country immediately recognized the lack of political experience of the revolutionaries and played their cards against them. They perfected their game to such an extent that the presidential election will now be decided between a henchman of Hosni Mubarak and a conservative candidate. Neither candidate mirrors the aspirations of the revolutionaries or represents those who took to the streets on January 25th. I am not surprised that many Egyptians who still believe in a different future plan to boycott the elections.

A revolution cannot be won in the span of a few months. A revolution requires time, it tears wounds and leaves behind a trail of many tears. But it is not over yet, despite the unfortunate candidacies of Shafik and Morsy in the runoff elections. Today, the task is to be resilient and tenacious. Egyptians must roll up their sleeves and dive into the political process, knowing that nothing will chance unless they work for change.

Every drop of blood on Tahrir Square should be reason enough to stand up for the revolution, for freedom and justice – even if Egypt faces obstacles that seem impossible to surmount. In a revolution, the last thing that dies is hope.

Read more in this debate: Ragnar Weilandt, Abdullah Al-Arian, Joseph Hammond.

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