By Salama A Salama
The lines at the polling station were a lot shorter than last time. One of the soldiers manning the front gate even volunteered to accompany me to the door of the designated voting room. Only dozens were voting at the time I arrived -- not exactly the kind of turnout one would expect in a country where the public talks of nothing but elections.
The calm at the polling station didn't tally with the tensions marking the elections; nor with the fact that the supporters of both candidates committed numerous violations. At one point, Mohamed Mursi campaigners, in a maddening breach of the code of silence imposed in the two days preceding the vote, tried to organise a news conference.
Up to the last moment before, many voters had trouble making up their minds. At the polling station, the voters around me went routinely about the process of voting. Gone was the excitement of the past elections. People just wanted to cast their votes and be done with it.
On the eve of the elections, Muslim Brotherhood second-in-command Khairat El-Shater made some scary remarks. He warned of a violent revolution should Ahmed Shafik win. He told foreign countries not to recognise the next president, unless he is Mursi.
El-Shater even said that Egypt's only hope of an easy transition to democracy is to vote Mursi into office.
Earlier, the Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau discussed the possibility of pulling Mursi out of elections in protest against the dissolution of parliament. Most disagreed, preferring to keep Mursi in the race rather than leave Shafik, and presumably the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), in total control.
As one can gather from the recent remarks by former People's Assembly speaker Saad El-Katatni, the Muslim Brotherhood feels that the Supreme Constitutional Court and SCAF are trying to rob the Brotherhood of its status as the country's largest opposition group. The Constitutional Court's decision invalidating the People's Assembly was a procedural one, but it hit the Muslim Brotherhood really hard. It followed months of criticism of the Brotherhood's performance both in parliament and in preparations to form the Constituent Assembly.
The eroding popularity of the Islamist current, both the Muslim Brotherhood and Nour Party, should be examined by the leaders of this current. Everyone now knows that the transitional period has been twisted out of shape, and the Islamists seem to be taking a major part of the blame. Some blame SCAF, but many are disappointed with the Islamists, who seemed incapable of finding common ground with other political parties.
A year and a half has passed since the revolution and we are back to square one. A revolution that startled the world, that inspired millions, is evaporating before our eyes.
Even the Europeans and Americans seem to be baffled by the awkwardness of our ways.
How can a country with so much going for it fail to produce a legitimate parliament and a constitution for so long? Whose fault is it that the parliamentary elections were flawed?
As EU and White House officials sought an answer to these questions, columnists in The Washington Post said that the dissolution of parliament boded ill for the country's democratic future.
We have gone to the polls three times in one year and yet we're still far from seeing light at the end of the tunnel. No one said that rebuilding the country's political system would be easy. But how hard can it be?