Robert Fisk: A taste of democracy that may turn sour

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The Independent Online

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive? It had rained overnight, but with Egypt's pale and wintry sun came the crowds, lining up outside the polling stations with a patience and an enthusiasm that would put any European nation to shame.

I walked and walked, and some queues were half a mile long, and gone was the old and corrupted voting culture. There were no cops to intimidate the men and women who arrived to choose their candidates, no fraudulent figures to produce another rubber stamp parliament. But my question mark on Wordsworth's all too brief enthusiasm for the French Revolution is necessary.

For the Egyptian Revolution has also turned violent, bliss has given way to cynicism, the Muslim Brotherhood cosying up to the military, which still thinks it can run the country as a fiefdom. And the parliament for which those millions of Egyptians voted yesterday cannot form a government or choose ministers. Is this, in other words, a real transition? Or do Mubarak's old pal Field Marshal Tantawi and his cronies believe they can stitch the place up, yesterday's poll being another fantasy, real elections for real candidates who will have no power?

That it will be a Muslim Brotherhood parliament there is little doubt. It may call itself the Freedom and Justice Party and it would need a coalition to rule, but secular Egypt suffered a death, I suspect, after the revolution. The revolution still exists, albeit that the ranks of the protesters in Tahrir Square yesterday had grown thinner. The cops and the soldiers were also on the streets, the latter watching the former, lounging in their jeeps, smoking, ignored by the queues outside the polling stations. A ban on campaigning 24 hours before the election was broken and ballot papers and ink turned up late. But no one complained. Indeed, there was an almost humourous element to the whole affair.

Party symbols to help the illiterate through the voting papers were ingenious and sometimes funny. On the street posters, you could find lighthouses, fishes, lightbulbs, tractors, keys, combs, and – incredibly – fruit blenders. Fruit blenders. Who could have divined a reason for such a symbol? A future life of plenty, perhaps? A mixture of strawberries and bananas, Muslims and Christians, a non-sectarian Egypt? The real question, of course, is just who has his hand on the blender.