Perhaps most crucially, revolutionary and political forces underestimated the size, depth, and power of the remnants of Egypt's former regime. It became clear over the past year that the country's military and security institutions were determined to remain independent powerhouses on the Egyptian political scene and would fight efforts towards greater civilian control. With a climate of rising fear regarding religious conservatism and national instability, a divided revolutionary movement, as well as significant dissatisfaction with parliament's performance, the "deep state" began to regain some of its power, and few were surprised with Shafiq's eventual catapulting into the second round of the elections.
The more mainstream "revolutionary candidates," most prominently neo-Nasserist Hamdeen Sabbahi and moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, were woefully disorganized to fend off this threat. The candidates severely underestimated Shafiq's chances, and ran independently in the elections rather than uniting behind one candidate or a single ballot. Together, Sabbahi and Aboul Fotouh captured 8.8 million votes in last month's first round of voting -- far and away the largest single bloc in the election. However, because neither of these individual candidates were among the top two vote-getters, their voices were eliminated before the run-off election. A historic opportunity for the movement to lead was squandered.
After the slew of setbacks, the centrist heart of the Tahrir movement finds itself at a crossroads. Activists could pursue a "boycott-the-vote" campaign, or even spoil their ballots in an attempt to discredit both candidates and the election itself. Also, they could intensify efforts to prove allegations of electoral fraud, which include voter bribery and the blocking of campaign representatives from observing the vote. Moreover, they could -- and have already taken some steps to -- finally create some formal leadership to address both short-and-long-term goals of the revolutionary and civil movements. Another option would be to mount public pressure against the legality of Shafiq's candidacy in the hopes that an Egyptian court, which is set to rule on June 14, will uphold the constitutionality of a law that excludes top Mubarak-era officials from holding office.
There is another way. In return for their support in defeating Shafiq, the revolutionary and civil forces could demand reassurances from the Brotherhood that they would be ensured one or more powerful vice presidents to represent them, a coalition government headed by a non-Brotherhood prime minister, a constitutional assembly that includes their voices, and reassurances on the future of human rights in Egypt. While some will argue Morsi is capable of winning the elections on his own -- relying solely on the support of the Brotherhood and the Salafists -- broadening his popular support base carries undeniable benefits. It would confer an undeniable national and revolutionary legitimacy as well as a more definite mandate as president, which the Brotherhood immensely needs at this point.
The Brotherhood, on its part, has expressed willingness to consider some of these proposals, but have yet to give the concrete guarantees that could decidedly calm fears, particularly given its continuing political feud with liberal group over the composition of the body that will draft Egypt's new constitution. It would be a dramatic risk to take for Egypt's "civil" revolutionary forces, given their dissatisfaction with the Brotherhood's recent track record, but it could be the only option to save the revolution from a potentially fatal blow. The revolutionaries may not become king in this round, but they might have a chance to become kingmakers.