True democracy does not guarantee good outcomes. Just ask the people of Egypt who, having survived the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and military rule since, completed preliminary presidential elections on May 23 and 24. A total of 13 candidates ran for president. The top two candidates from this preliminary election will now run against each other during the final presidential election to be held on June 16 and 17.
To say that the citizens of Egypt are not satisfied with their two final candidates would be an understatement. Last year, thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to fight for the ouster of Mubarak and for fair elections. After Mubarak was overthrown, Egyptians became inpatient as the military took its time to develop the process for presidential elections. Many Egyptians died in protests against Mubarak and the military. Their expectations for democracy and a new president are high.
The two finalists are Ahmed Shafik and Mohamed Morsi. These candidates are not exactly what many Egyptians had in mind, and many are disappointed with their choice now before them.
Shafik was Mubarak's prime minister before street protests pushed them both out of power. Egyptians are wondering why they went through all the trouble to oust Mubarak just to have his prime minister take his place. To many, Shafik's election would mean a return to what they fought so hard to change. In addition, many are concerned about Shafik's close relationship with the military because he was once a commander in the Egyptian Air Force.
On the other hand, Morsi represents the Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood. Many Egyptians, especially Egyptian women, do not want to live under strict Islamic law. Under Mubarak, Egypt was a secular nation. At the same time, Morsi represents the greatest change from the Mubarak administration and the military leaders who now control the nation. The Muslim Brotherhood has already made it clear that it expects the military to relinquish its authority after the election. But the Egyptian military may have other ideas.
So, which way to go? One choice is the old guy who may be too close to the old way of doing things to move Egypt forward, but who may provide Egyptians with some stability as they experiment with democracy. Also, Shafik would likely keep Egypt a secular nation.
The other option, Morsi, is a clear departure from the Mubarak administration, but one that might be too far to the right for many Egyptians.
As Egyptian teacher Nermine Hassan Sayyed told Sarah Lynch of USA Today, "I'd be a little nervous with the Brotherhood in power. What would Egypt look like? Would I be banned from walking on the street or from working? I hope they will not be extreme in their governing, but I'm not sure about that."
During their presidential campaigns, both candidates are making promises to ease voters' concerns. Shafik has promised to take Egypt forward and not back to the days of the Mubarak administration. Morsi, meanwhile, has promised to preserve the rights of women. What either of these two candidates would do if elected is anyone's guess.
The real wildcard in this election, however, may be what the military does after a new president is named. During this transition period Egypt has been developing a new constitution.
David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times recently wrote that "The generals have already attempted to put their own stamp on the document, moving to provide themselves with permanent political powers and protection from civilian scrutiny."
To modify a phrase from Forrest Gump, sometimes democracy is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.