Back in the heady days when the Western world was still enthralled by what was then known as the Arab Spring, the 2012 Egyptian presidential elections represented a watershed – if albeit a mixed one, given the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi. The coming-to-power of Morsi provided one of the clearest signals that the “Arab Spring” was turning out to be an Islamist spring. But as it occurred by democratic means, hardly anyone could object. The will of the people had been expressed and Egyptians had definitively turned their backs on three decades of Hosni Mubarak’s military rule. If they preferred an Islamist party, then so be it. This was democracy in action.
Never mind that a representative of the supposedly universally hated ancien régime, Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, won nearly half of the vote; nor that Shafiq’s campaign headquarters had been ransacked and set aflame after the first round of voting; nor that the Muslim Brotherhood leadership had made clear that it would not accept a Shafiq victory, in any case, and that tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters had gathered in Tahrir Square, ready to make good on the thinly-veiled threats (see, for instance, here and here).
Now, however, the news website Al-Monitor reports that there is evidence that Morsi did not win the 2012 elections after all, but was merely declared the winner by the electoral commission, in order to avert the violence that was sure to follow an announcement to the contrary. The evidence consists of a letter allegedly sent by the commission’s general-secretary Hatem Bagato to General Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which ruled the country after Mubarak’s resignation in February 2011.
Per Al-Monitor’s translation, the document states that the commission had opted to “take the decision that is correct and most beneficial for the country and its citizens, despite it being in violation of the law, and announce Dr. Mohammed Morsi president of Egypt. This is to spare the country of the bloody conflict that will inevitably occur in the event that Ahmed Shafiq is announced president….”
The letter also, however, spells out another option: namely, and again per the translation of Al-Monitor, “to reject all pressure – whether internal or external – and announce the facts to the Egyptian and global public opinion, and reveal the defects and gross cases of manipulation and forgery that marred the electoral process as a whole. This is in addition to revealing the criminal pressures, practices and threats that the chairman and members of the committee, as well as their families, have faced.”
The allusion to “external” sources of pressure is particularly intriguing. According to Al-Monitor, local Egyptian press has reported that then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contacted Tantawi prior to the announcement of the election results with the aim of “putting pressure on Egyptian authorities to hand power over to Morsi.” Such reports obviously do not in themselves constitute proof. But given the pressure that the Obama administration publicly exerted on Mubarak to resign and its strong embrace of the revolutionaries of Tahrir Square, there is little doubt that the election of Shafiq, a man who proudly described Mubarak as his “role model,” would have been as anathema to the White House as to the Egyptian revolutionaries themselves.
John Rosenthal is the author of The Jihadist Plot: The Untold Story of Al-Qaeda and the Libyan Rebellion. You can follow his work at www.trans-int.com or on Facebook here.