Some think the elections were "free and unfair" as voters were driven by fear of Islamists consolidating power (see Wael Eskander's post here) or lack of transparency in campaign financing (see Alaa Aswany's article here). Eskander mixes "free and fair elections" with total democracy while Aswany's article is extremely biased and factually inaccurate. Aswany selectively uses examples to show the army manipulating the elections to have Shafik president, I can't believe I'm just about to justify some army actions but Aswany complains that Shafik is being protected by the army while campaigning which I find a wise decision to ensure Shafik's safety and avoid a tragedy that could take the country to the abyss as we've seen how he was attacked yesterday. He also raises the point about lack of transparency in campaign financing and uses Shafik's billboards, as an example yet doesn't mention Moussa, Abol Fotouh and Morsi billboards coverage or sources of funding. Aswany's article is also factually inaccurate (e.g., Egyptians abroad were allowed to use the new passports to vote. Aswany claims only identification cards were allowed).
Indeed many Egyptians voted for the fellools (Shafik or Moussa) not out of conviction but to prevent an Islamist from being president. Even on Liberal Koshari we discussed how most Egyptians are voting based on a candidate's position on Shari'a (see "Egyptian Copts and Muslims Single Issue Voters") and we emphasized that voting based on a "single issue" is not unique to Egypt.
In countries like France the right-wing candidate received 17% of the vote in the recent presidential elections and in the US the radical Tea Party won significant seats in the House and now plays a key role in the Republican Party. It is fair to assume Arabs in France voted in many cases against Le Pen fearing her xenophobia rather than out of love for Hollande or Sarkozy. In the US many gays voted for "any" Democrat fearing the radical views of the Tea Party on homosexuality. In summary, both democracies, France and America, allowed candidates to run for elections on radical platforms, as a result minorities (e.g., Arabs or gays) voted against them.
So let me answer my first question: Is Egypt a Democracy Now? To have a "democracy" a country need to meet the following criteria: (a) guarantee of basic human rights, (b) separation of powers, (c) freedom of opinion and speech, (d) religious liberty, (e) good governance and rule of law and (f) free and fair elections. Based on these elements, Egypt is clearly not a democracy and we have a long way to go before we can claim that we live in a "democracy". But did Egypt just meet one of the elements of democracy by having "free and fair elections"?
International standards for free and fair democratic elections have their foundations within various international conventions such as the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The key elements of “free and fair elections” are around having (a) sound legal framework and electoral system, (b) electoral watchdog, (c) right to elect and be elected, (d) voter registers maintained with transparency and accuracy, (e) all political parties and candidates treated equally while competing in elections, including campaign financing (f) right to campaign and media access and (g) balloting, counting votes and election observers.
In a "grey" world where a number of democracies have an imperfect system (e.g., campaign financing laws in the U.S. or documented voters intimidation by the Republicans to suppress minorities from voting for Democrats) it's recklessly naive to demand or expect fully free and fair elections in Egypt. Given Egypt's circumstances: lack of election's culture, high levels of poverty, illiteracy and corruption, majority of Egyptians getting their news from state run media, weak judiciary, SCAF's stranglehold over political life in the country and unless the violations being reported are serious and verified, I'd argue Egypt had the best elections possible given the realities on the ground.
We should accept, even if grudgingly, the elections results, focus on implementing other missing elements of democracy (see list above) and prepare for the next presidential and parliamentary elections so we'd have a strong liberal candidate and more balanced parliament.
Finally, today I'm proud of my country and will sulk later when Morsi or Shafik win!
Image: Fredrik Persson/AP