What a Shafik Win Will Mean: A Quick Path to a Failed State

Jun 16

According to this report in the New York Times, voter turnout in Egypt is very low, and consists almost entirely of older Egyptians.  This suggests that Ahmed Shafik will likely win, perhaps by a very large margin.  What will the consequences be of a Shafik victory for Egypt?  The most likely scenario is that Egypt will quickly become a failed state under the nominal leadership of Shafik, with its public spaces under the effective control of NDP-era thugs: more and more of the state’s ever-dwindling resources will have to be devoted to security and paying more in-kind bribes to critical constituencies, e.g., landowners in the Delta, whom Shafik promised that he would not interfere with their conversion of agricultural land to residential uses, that will further undermine the productivity of the Egyptian economy. This will be just one of an undoubtedly long series of rent-seeking policies he will adopt to secure his base. There will be nothing left for social investment, and private investment will rightly disappear. Youth unemployment will continue to explode and probably find outlets in crime and thuggery.

As one example, behind my apartment in Heliopolis, once night falls, approximately 500 unemployed shabab gather to smoke shisha, and play cards and backgammon. That was four years ago. I suspect that number must be larger by now, if not in my neighborhood cafe, then in someone else’s. I don’t think it would be safe for my daughters to take a walk around the block in that neighborhood at night, and it is a relatively affluent one, so I can’t imagine what it will be in places like Imbaba: perhaps there will be a restoration of Salafi amirates as the only solution to the lack of law and order.

People, especially the affluent in places like Heliopolis, will look back on this day and remember the irony that Shafik scared Heliopolis women into either voting for him or not voting at all, claiming that a Morsi win would lead to the adoption of policies depriving women of the right to work and go out. When Shafik wins, women will be too scared to go out because the victorious candidate will hardly be in a position to discipline the thugs who currently systematically harass Egyptian women; indeed, thugs will be ruling the Egyptian street with impunity.

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