NYT reported Egypt's first multicandidate campaign for the presidency ends Sunday, wrapping up an unprecedented political season in which opposition forces were allowed to publicly challenge the ruling party's monopoly on power. There was never any real prospect of ousting President Hosni Mubarak; his re-election remains virtually assured after decades in which he and his ruling power controlled the media and state institutions, blocked the development of strong opposition parties and used emergency laws to try to silence the opposition. But the campaign season was an end in itself. The 19 days of public dialogue - barely enough time for the nine new candidates to get a message out to 70 million people - have clearly set off a political awakening across the country. Opposition leaders, who have uniformly dismissed the campaign as a facade, have also, reluctantly, acknowledged it has had a positive impact on their society. "It made Egyptians think, 'Why have we accepted this for 24 years,' " said Ayman Nour, leader of the Tomorrow party and one of Mr. Mubarak's better-known opponents. "I believe, whatever the result, we have a large gain for democracy and liberalism."
Precisely. Once the people have had a chance to pick their own leaders, they will want it more and more, and they will be much better prepared to make the right choices in the future. There is no way to put this genie back in the bottle.