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A Faded, Burdened Country

Egypt, writes Fouad Ajami in the Wall Street Journal, is “a faded, burdened country that has known many false dawns.” I never believed the uprising and palace coup that overthrew Hosni Mubarak would lead to a liberal democracy in the land of the pharoahs. I doubt Ajami did either. It isn’t what most Egyptians are yearning for, not at this time. And if most Egyptians don’t want it, who could possibly build it?

The socialists and quasi-liberals of Tahrir Square will not see one of their own rise to the presidency. The next round of the elections will be held in a couple of weeks. The winner will either be an Islamist or a general.

Here is Ajami:

For the Brotherhood, this election is the culmination of a dream of eight decades. Formed in 1928, it has alternated between the politics of the ballot and the resort to violence. Its founder, a plotter named Hassan al-Banna, said that the organization rested on the Quran and the gun.

The Brotherhood was dismantled and driven underground in 1954, and brutalized by the Nasser regime, but it never went away. And with Mubarak gone, it was ready: It has money and numbers, and a sense of political cunning bequeathed it by its founder, who in his time was a chameleon of supreme pragmatism and concealment. And so the Brotherhood was part of Tahrir Square—those magical 18 days that toppled Mubarak—and yet it wasn't. It played cat-and-mouse with the armed forces and signaled its unease with the politics of mass protest.

Representing the feloul is Ahmed Shafiq. His was the appeal of the military uniform, and the promise to the Copts that his presidency was a safe alternative to the rule of the Islamists.

An early reading of the votes shows Mr. Shafiq doing well among rural voters. Not for them was the romance with Tahrir Square. For all the talk of an Egypt obedient to its rulers, submissive under an eternal sky, the period since Mubarak's fall has witnessed a massive breakdown in public order. True, Mubarak had stepped aside unlamented, but the lawlessness and the rise in unemployment has offered him—and his remnants—a measure of rehabilitation.

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