The beginning of the third and last (at last!) round of Egypt's elections started today, in the context of the post-election debate — notably what will govern parliament-SCAF relations in the coming period — already more important than the poll. A fundamental mistake of many analysts in looking at the Egyptian results is to focus on their results (i.e. over 70% Islamist control of parliament) rather than the elections themselves. In doing so they have glossed over the many flaws with these elections, from their poor planning to their many irregularies, fraud and the role the military and the judiciary has played at times in favor of some parties. Such an analytical error is most evident in the kind of op-ed written by Jon Alterman who claims that the elections were Egypt's real revolution (never mind his call for a "compromise" on Egyptian democracy, ably critiqued here and here). There are hundreds of lawsuits and claims in these shoddily run elections, the decent thing would be to at least wait for their outcome. To me, the recent elections are much better than last year's, but in some respects comparable to the 2005 ones or even elections in the 1980s.
Anyway, the chances are that the elections will be swallowed because the international community wants to see stability in Egypt, because the SCAF (or at least parts of it) wants them to stand and use their shoddiness as a negotiating card, and because the Muslim Brothers prefer to accept a bad election that brought them to power (hence they complain about irregularities, but sotto voce).
The first two rounds left us with the MB's Freedom and Justice Party with over 48% of seats, and they may very well make over 50% by the end of the third round. Which might be cleaner for all concerned, allowing the MB to be a narrow majority in parliament rather than the plurality. In many respects, the debate has already moved on to other issues, such as:
- What deal will be hammered out between the FJP and the SCAF over parliament's powers?
- What deal will be hammered out between the FJP and the SCAF over the constituent assembly?
- Will the FJP enter into any alliances?
The first two questions are the main focus at the moment, because the need for the third is contingent on them. It's hard to prejudge the results ahead of the coming negotiations, but it's both clear that the MB is ready to negotiate (for instance it is ready to promise the SCAF immunity from prosecution for the violence it ordered during the transition) but that it is not ready to give away everything to the generals. Unfortunately, the twin urgency of striking this deal and getting a constitution approved before the presidential elections is likely to produce a pretty bad document. In other words, yet again the need for real transitional justice and the building of a better foundation for Egyptian politics is being sacrified to the political considerations of the moment.
I will leave you will everything you might want to know about the elections' results so far in this handy PDF prepared by Jacopo Carbonari. Enjoy.