With the country’s lower house of parliament dissolved, the constitution suspended and the revolution pronounced all but dead, the outcome of the presidential vote that continues Sunday could not be more consequential.
“This is a decisive moment, but nobody feels confident about anything,” said Samia, 45, a Shafiq supporter who asked to be identified by her first name because of her government job. “It’s like rolling the dice and hoping for the best.”
The runoff began two days after a court ruling led to the dissolution of the lower house of Egypt’s Islamist-dominated parliament, a move that activists and some leading political figures described as a soft military coup. A small movement of boycotters urged voters to spoil their ballots in what they saw as an illegitimate election under military rule.
The once-repressed Muslim Brotherhood has thrived since the revolt that overthrew Mubarak. The group dominated the parliament and took a sizable share of the seats in a body tasked with writing a new constitution.
After the dissolution of the lower house of parliament this week, though, the military junta assumed all legislative powers. Military chiefs are soon expected to appoint a new constitutional assembly and issue a decree outlining the powers of the presidency.
That means the Brotherhood’s sole hope of remaining politically powerful in the short run lies with Morsi.
On Saturday, the Brotherhood appeared to be laying the groundwork to cry fraud if Shafiq is pronounced the winner. The group released a statement listing alleged violations, including military conscripts voting illegally and the arrest of revolutionaries holding pictures of slain protesters outside polling stations. However, the Brotherhood did not claim widespread fraud and expressed confidence that Morsi would win.
The group’s political wing had harsh words for Egypt’s military.
Dissolving parliament “confirms the desire of the military to take all authority against popular will,” a statement from the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party said. It said only a popular referendum could disband parliament. The statement called the move “an attack on the great Egyptian Revolution” and warned that the party would not honor the military’s decree about presidential powers.
“Egyptians, defend your will, continue to vote heavily,” the statement said. “Remember the blood of the martyrs and the pain of the injured and do not allow in any way the return of the tyrannical and despotic regime that has always despised the Egyptian people.”
Egypt’s transition has been marred by division among liberals, leftists and Islamists as well as what many see as the military rulers’ intention to protect their economic and political interests at the cost of democracy.