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Egypt takes another step down a perilous path

Islamist Mohamed Mursi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, is the top voter-getter in Egypt’s presidential election. He appears to have captured at least 25 percent of the vote, well short of the majority needed to avoid a run-off.

As I write this, it is unclear who the other candidate in the run-off will be. The Muslim Brotherhood told Reuters that, by its count, Mursi will face Ahmed Shafiq, a military man who served as Hosni Mubarak’s last premier. Shafiq supposedly is at around 22 percent. However, the Washington Post is reporting that the runner-up is likely to be Hamdeen Sabahi, whom it describes as “a little-known politician of humble origins.” Sabahi is a leftist.

Either way, Mursi is well-positioned for the run-off. Another Islamist candidate, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former leader of the Brotherhood, has already endorsed Mursi. His share of the vote combined with Mursi’s appears to approach 45 percent, But again, the true vote count remains unclear. Mursi’s prospects seem particularly good if his opponent turns out to be Shafiq, the former Mubarak, military man.

Shafiq rode the votes of Egyptians who are alarmed about the country’s current lack of stability. This concern typically carries the day at some point in the process unleashed by revolutions like Egypt’s. Often this occurs through a return to authoritarianism. In Egypt, there is no shortage of entities that might lead such a return. The list starts, I imagine, with the Brotherhood, but also including the military. But the desire for stability rarely carries the day this early in the process, and is unlikely to in Egypt.

An electoral triumph by the Muslim Brotherhood will show those Americans who enthusiastically greeted the Arab Spring to have been naïve. At the same time, those who believe the Arab Spring could have been appreciably postponed are probably naïve too.

We’re witnessing a process that I believe Egypt was destined to undergo. Is this a good time for Egypt to be starting the process? No. But who is to say that five years from now, or ten, would be a better time?

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