Some aspects of the above mentioned events deserve more attention:
1) It was the tradition of Arabs that once a person was declared even by a small group to be the Chief of the tribe, others did not like to oppose him, and willy nilly followed suit. This tradition was in mind of Abbas when he told Ali: "Give me your hand so that I may pledge allegiance to you........because once this thing is taken over (by anyone) nobody asks him to relinquish it." And it was this tradition which prompted Sa'ad to exhort Ansar to "take over the Caliphate before anyone else could do it." And it was because of this tradition that Umar was told to reach Saqifa "before it is too late and difficult for you to undo what is being done there." And it was because of this custom that once some people accepted Abu Bakr as Caliph, majority of the Muslims in Medina followed suit.
2) Ali was well-aware of this custom. Then why did he refused to extend his hand to accept the allegiance of Abbas, telling him
"who else, other than I, can call for such pledge of allegiance?'
It was because Ali knew that the Khilafat (Caliphate) of The Holy Prophet was not the chieftainship of the tribe. It was not based upon the declaration of allegiance by the public. It was a responsibility given by Allah, not by the people. And as he had already been publicly appointed by the Holy Prophet to be his successor he did not have any need to rush to the public to seek their allegiance.
3) Now we turn towards the events of Saqifa:
During the life time of the Holy Prophet, the mosque of the Prophet was the centre of all Islamic activities. It was here that decisions of war and peace were made, deputations were received, sermons were delivered and cases were decided.
And when the news spread of the death of The Holy Prophet, all Muslims were assembling in that very mosque.
Then why the partisans of Sa'ad bin Ubaada decided to go three miles outside Medina to meet in Saqifa which was not a place of good reputation? Was not it because they wanted to usurp the Caliphate without the knowledge of other people and then present Sa'ad as the accepted Caliph?
Keeping in view the declaration of Khum and tribal custom of Arabia there can be no other explanation.
4) When Umar and Abu Bakr came to know of that gathering, they were in the mosque. Majority of the Muslims was at the mosque. Why did they hot inform any other person of that gathering? Why did they slip out stealthily? Was it because Ali and Banu Hashim were present in the mosque and in thc house of the Holy Prophet and Umar and Abu Bakr did not want them to know of the plot? Was it because they were afraid that if Ali came to know of that Saqifa meeting, and if, by a remote chance, he decided to go there himself, no one else would have had a chance to succeed?
5) When Abu Bakr was extoling the virtues of Muhajirin that they were from the tribe of the Holy Prophet, did not hc know that there were people who had more right to this claim because they were members of the very family of The Holy Prophet and his own flesh and blood?
It was this aspect of the pretence that prompted Ali bin Abi Taleb to comment ,
"They argued that they were of one tree, i.e., tribe (with The Prophet) and then they destroyed the fruit (family)."
Looking dispassionately at this 'happening', we are unable to call it an 'election', because the voters (all the Mushms scattered throughout Arabia, or, at least, all the Muslims of Medina) did not even know that there was to be an election, let alone their unawareness of the date, venue and time of that election.
Let alone the voters, even prospectlve candidates were unaware of what was happening in Saqifa.
And we cannot call it even a 'selection' because majority of the prominent companions of The Holy Prophet had no knowledge of these happenings. Ali, Abbas, Uthman, Talha, Zubair, Sa'ad bin Abi aq-qas, Salman Farsi, Abu Dhar, Ammar, Miqdad, AbdurRahman bin Awf - none of them was informed nor consulted .
The only argument which can be put forward for this 'Caliphate' is this: "Whatever the legal position of the happenings of Saqifa, as Abu Bakr succeeded because of the tribal custom, in taking the rein of power in his hands, he was 'Constitutional' Caliph."
In simple language, Abu Bakr became a Constitutional Caliph because he succeeded in his bid for power.
Thus the Muslims who have been taught to glorify this happening, are inadvertently taught that the only thing which matters is the 'power'. Once you are secure in the seat of power, everything is O.K. You will become the 'constitutional' head of state.
In the end, I should quote the comment of Umar who was the author of this Caliphate. He said in a lecture during his Caliphate:
"I have been informed that someone says, 'when Umar dies, I will pledge my allegiance to X.' Well nobody should be misled like this, thinking that the allegiance of Abu Bakr was by surprise and it became all right, (so again such feat may be accomplished by others). Of course, it was by surprise, but Allah saved from its evils. Now if anybody wants to copy it I will cut his throat." (Bukhari Vol. 4, p. 10-111; Musnad of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal, Vol, 1. p. 55).