During the long, bewildering week in which Egyptians waited for the results of their presidential election to be announced, I took a train from Cairo to Alexandria. The Muslim Brotherhood had declared that its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, had defeated Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, by a million votes. The Brothers had collected signed tallies from all 16,000 polling stations, and their counts were said to be meticulous. (It turned out they were off by only 0.06 per cent.) But Shafiq had declared victory too, and in the last week of the campaign looked eerily confident, as if he knew the elections had been rigged in his favour. The longer people were forced to wait, the more they began to worry – or hope – that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would try to pass Shafiq off as the winner. Until 24 June, when Morsi’s victory was announced by the electoral commission, nothing was certain, even whether the former president was alive or dead. As the train reached the station at Alexandria, my fixer, Magdy, got a call from his boss, a reporter for the Telegraph, to say that Mubarak had died. ‘I guess he couldn’t bear to see Mohamed Morsi sitting in his chair,’ Magdy said. By the time we got to the hotel, CNN was reporting that Mubarak was in a critical condition, maybe on life support. ‘They’re playing with us,’ Magdy said.
LRB 19 July 2012 | PDF Download