TIME Magazine has named "The Protester" its person of the year, a choice inspired in part by the Egyptian demonstrators who swept dictator Hosni Mubarak from power and ushered in the country's first real elections in generations.
Well, sic transit euphoria: t wo Islamist parties have taken the lion's share of seats in the prospective parliament; the Arab Winter has begun. In the first round of elections last month, the Muslim Brotherhood won nearly 40% of the vote under the banner of the Freedom and Justice Party, promoting a "moderate" economy-and-jobs agenda.
No-one should mistake them for progressives: the Brotherhood hopes to draft a constitution based on Islam's repressive sharia law.
And the Brotherhood won't even be the most radical voice when a parliament convenes next year. The Nour party of ultraconservative Salafis got almost 25% of the vote. Salafis promote "first century" Islam and gave birth to the extremist Wahhabi movement in Saudi Arabia - which spawned Osama bin Laden. Meanwhile, the secular Egyptian Bloc - arguably including many faces and voices of the Arab Spring - got only 13%.
The second round of voting began last week and will cover rural provinces that generally back Islamists with even more gusto than urban centres such as Cairo.
What this portends for Egypt's immediate future, no-one knows - but it can't bode well. Periods following upheavals have a long history of concluding in blood-spattered consolidations of power. And even if Egypt avoids violent confrontations, there is no reason to believe the starry-eyed instigators of the "Arab Spring" will be in power when the dust settles. Just as there is every reason to believe the days of Egypt being a reliable ally to the US are, sadly, past. December 15 2011