In the first round of the Egyptian presidential election, which took place last week, the two top vote getters were Ahmed Shafiq, Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister (pictured to the left), and the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi (pictured on the right). (Morsi, incidentally, is an engineer trained in the United States. His experience of this country seems to have turned him against us.)
These two candidates, both of whom received very nearly 25 percent of the ballots, will now proceed to a second and final round of voting, which will take place on June 16 and 17.
Mubarak's last prime minister or the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood. What a miserable choice--or so I thought until reading Fouad Ajami's piece in today's Wall Street Journal. Even if the Muslim Brotherhood elects its man, Fouad argues, there will be a limit to how much damage he can do:
In the vision of the Islamists, Egypt would be ruled by Shariah law and the secularists reined in. This cannot be sustained on Egyptian soil. Theocracies like Iran, or Saudi Arabia for that matter, rest on oil wealth, on the margin such wealth allows the rulers to mold the society. In Egypt, so dependent on foreign aid, remittances, the revenues of tourism and the kindness of strangers, a religious utopia would be undone.
Egypt may grow worse, in other words, but only by so much.
Well, that's some comfort, anyway.