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What does the Egyptian election portend?

By Latheef Farook

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“Will it be the climax of a revolution, or will it tear the country asunder?”

Egypt is an ancient country with a recorded history of more than 7,000 years. Known for its pyramids and the River Nile this Mediterranean country linking the Middle East and Africa with Europe was the centre of a flourishing civilization, while most of the world, including the West, was steeped in darkness.

However, with the rise of European imperial powers and their manipulations, Egypt suffered a great deal, especially since the 15th century. Though an ancient country, Egypt had its first ever free and fair elections last month, to elect a president who would rule for the next four years.

The question is whether the forces which rule the world, such as the United States, Europe, pro Zionists Jews who control the US and Europe, Israel and their Arab stooges installed in power in the Middle East together with the Egyptian armed forces, will ever allow democracy to survive, leave alone flourish.

Egypt is often referred to in Arabic as Ummuth Duniya, ‘Mother of the Earth’ and the Egyptians known for their humour and easy going lifestyle proudly claim that “Anyone who tastes Nile water always returns to drink this water.”

The importance of Egypt

The importance of Egypt in the region throughout history has been such that often it was said “Egypt is Middle East and Middle East is Egypt”. It is Egypt which always remains in the driving seat and decides the course of events in the Middle East. For example without Egypt, there is no war or peace in the entire region. Such is the crucial role of Egypt even in today’s fast changing Middle East.

Thus a free and fair election in Egypt is bound to have its own repercussions in the entire region as demonstrated by the ‘Arab Spring’ sweeping the region, demanding political change. The Arab uprising has reached a stage where all involved need to take into consideration the feelings of the Egyptian people, though they would like to see popular uprisings crushed.

Yielding to popular demand and sacrifice, fifteen months after tyrant Hosni Mubarak was overthrown; the Egyptians went to polls to elect their president on 23 and 24 May 2012.

There was great enthusiasm among the people of all walks of life and the oppressed and brutalized people from Yemen to Morocco were also watching the developments in Egypt with keen interest.

The leading contenders included the former Foreign Minister and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, seen as an experienced diplomat but commonly labelled as fulul, a remnant of the old regime. Ahmed Shafik who once described tyrant Mubarak as a ‘role model’ and carries the stigma of being Mubarak's last Prime Minister and a close associate of several of the people thought to be responsible for the infamous Battle of the Camel. Core supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Dr. Mohamed Mursi clearly seek to establish a genuine democracy and move the country ahead with dignity.

In Egypt, the military does not exert great influence over voter preferences. It cannot back a particular candidate, at least not openly and it does not have the ability to mobilize millions of voters at the polls. However, the military does not want to be excluded from having a say in the choice of the next president, and therefore, it would have a strong incentive for pushing for the concessional model.

In the first round of last week’s election, Dr. Muhammad Mursi, Chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party, the  nominee of the Muslim Brotherhood, polled 24.3% votes, while Ahmed Shafik received 23.3% votes to the shock of the nation. The two will contest a runoff election on 16 and 17 June.  Thus the contest is narrowed down to these two candidates.

The question is how come Ahmed Shafik, nominee of the armed forces of the Mubarak era, received 23.3% of the votes? There is widespread speculation that the election was rigged in favour of Ahmed Shafik. Already Hamdin Sabbahi who came third has demanded a recount, citing many ‘violations’.

The Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood has predicted Egypt would be in danger if Ahmed Shafik, who is backed by the armed forces and other elements, which flourished under Hosni Mubarak’s tyranny, wins the elections. The Egyptian armed forces which even controls the economy and other activities, have been backed by the US, Israel and the corrupt and rotten-to–the-core Arab dictators including Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States.

Thus Ahmed Shafik represents the interest of this group, which is equipped with power, wealth, weapons and all other such factors. For example, as pointed out by a columnist, for decades the US succeeded in turning Arab rulers to the service of its interests and against the interests of their own peoples. These Arab leaders were well rewarded for implementing Washington's policies and for helping to protect Israel, being able to wreak terror at home, plunder the national wealth and fill their personal bank accounts at home and abroad with impunity.

On the other hand the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Dr. Muhammad Mursi, represents the desires and aspirations of people who came in their millions to the streets, made sacrifices to bring about today’s changed political environment, which was just a daydream even a year and a half ago.

Young liberal activists who overthrew Hosni Mubarak asked, "What happened to the revolution?"

They consider defeating Ahmed Shafik as the climax of the Egyptian revolution. However, as it appears, it is not going to be an easy task.

Angered by Ahmed Shafik receiving 23.3% votes, the young revolutionaries set fire to his campaign headquarters after it was confirmed that the former regime figure would face the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood's candidate in the second-round of the election. The young revolutionaries openly warned they would not accept any of Mubarak’s henchmen as their President.

Commenting on the outcome of the first round of elections, columnist Abdullah Iskandar wrote in Dar Al Hayat that the presidential elections in Egypt reached its inevitable end, i.e. with the competition over the presidency during the run-off being limited to the Muslim Brotherhood group and the military. Today, after the competition over the presidency became limited to the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Morsi, and the candidate of the military, Ahmed Shafik, the transitional phase has ended with this political standoff.

The signs of this conclusion surfaced ever since the Islamists in general achieved their great electoral victory during the legislative elections, and after the emergence of the tendency to exploit this victory to control all the other institutions. Indeed, ever since the Islamists won the majority of the seats in Parliament, it has become clear they will try to use that victory, whether in the constituent assembly or in the battle to topple the government of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (ISCAF), and push an Islamist to its premiership. It also appeared that these intentions were not to the liking of the military, which started placing obstacles before this total Islamist domination, and resorted to the administrative judicial authority to hinder the Muslim Brotherhood’s wishes.

This is especially valid since the possibilities of seeing a deal between the group and the military have greatly receded after the Muslim Brotherhood announced its determination to curb this institution’s role through the Constitution. This runs contrary to the army’s aspirations to remain in control over higher national interests, and what this means in terms of the roles it plays on all levels.

The Muslim Brotherhood and those who support it will try to focus on the ties between candidate Shafik, the former regime and the injustices it committed on the domestic arena. They will also warn against the disbanded National Party’s monopolization of power once again, and will carry out mobilization under the slogan of protecting the revolution and its gains.

In other words, outside the Islamic movements, the Muslim Brotherhood might not find clear support in favour of its project, at a time when the military is considered to be a guarantor for the continuation of the previous policy at the level of Arab relations, the relations with the United States and especially the peace treaty with Israel.

Despite the announcement made by the members of the     SCAF regarding their neutrality, the military remains concerned about the fate of its role and the continuation of this role via a president it trusts. On the other hand, this institution remains the main side concerned about the peace process and its protection, and the most influenced by the international positions that are supporting it.

It is certain that in this conflict, the military holds effective tools to guarantee the victory of its candidate (representative) in the presidential race. It is, alongside the Muslim Brotherhood, an organized side with numerous branches within the Egyptian society and capable of carrying out popular mobilization. And while the Egyptian generals are stressing the integrity of the process, the chances of their candidate rely on the ability to provide him with a large bloc of voters that is no less important than those of the Muslim Brotherhood, far away from the blatant rigging seen in the past.

In last week’s election, around fifty million eligible voters went to cast their votes in transparent boxes and then dip their finger in phosphorous in 13,000 polling stations involving 14,500 judges and 65,000 civil servants. Three foreign and 49 local organizations monitored the poll. Numerous independent organizations also monitored the polling to prevent vote rigging or any other malpractices.

Parliamentary elections last November

During the parliamentary elections last November, campaigning continued against regulations, with voters being canvassed as they queued outside polling stations. This time voters are taking matters into their own hands. Al-Ahram Weekly reporters say they have regularly overheard annoyed voters telling interlocutors they need no advice on whom to vote for. Others made sure even candidates had to stand in line to vote. We are all equal citizens, they were told. We do not want pharaohs to rule.

Yet another columnist, Shaden Shehab said “Candidates spent weeks touring Egypt, promising a brighter future and chanting their slogans such as,  Abul-Fotouh's "a stronger Egypt"; Amr Moussa's "We are up to the challenge"; Muhammad Mursi’s "A new renaissance"; Ahmed Shafik's "Actions not words";  and Sabahi's "One of us",  though there have been few if any policy specifics on exactly how they will engineer the promised reversal in Egypt's economic fortunes.

Still many believe that none of the candidates will fulfil the people's aspirations, especially after a revolution in which hundreds died for the cause of a democratic nation. Young, indisputable leadership skills, experience and charisma were traits the masses longed for, but no candidate fits all sizes. Many dreams have boiled down to going back to living a ‘normal’ life of political and economic stability rather than chaos. Now they are relying on the new President to at least get that back.

Whoever emerges as the winner, the new President will be expected to offer a burst of optimism after 15 tumultuous months of military rule which has seen many protesters killed or injured, the economy falter, security remain absent from the streets and a foreign policy lacking definition. A series of military appointed interim governments have failed to address the growing problems. Tourism and foreign investment have collapsed, unemployment is increasing and half of the country's currency reserves have been frittered away.

However, the SCAF has vowed to hand power as soon as a new President is elected but it remains unclear what steps are in place to protect the position of privilege enjoyed by the military for more than 60 years.

Security analyst, Sameh Seif El-Yazal, said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper "Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi will voluntarily give up his powers and will not seek any political position after the election."

As leading political analyst, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal put it, the next President will need a miracle to be able to deal with the multiple challenges facing Egypt. And he must do so in the absence of clearly identified powers. The constituent assembly that is supposed to draft a new constitution hasn't even been formed.  In the event of the armed forces’ nominee being elected president, the sacrifice made by the people to bring about this change will be in vain. Thus there will be further unrest.

Changing political scenario

Dealing with the changing political scenario, one commentator said “The political map of the Arab world has been changing radically as a consequence of the several successful revolutions known collectively as the ‘Arab Spring’. The Tunisian and Yemeni revolutions brought in new Presidents to complete their transitional periods, and Egypt and Libya are following suit.

By the time the fuse of revolution was lit, people had been driven beyond the point of fear by the machinery of murder, plunder and starvation used by the Arab regimes, and the prospect of death was no longer terrifying to them. Instead, it was the rulers who now became alarmed to find that they were mortal, both physically and politically, and they began to retreat, step after step, and declaration after declaration and concession after concession. The balance of power had shifted to the ruled, and the rulers began to scramble for a way to save their skins.

Perhaps the most important common denominator of the Arab revolutions was their appeals for freedom, human dignity, and the elimination of the massive corruption that emanated from the top of the political hierarchy. The incestuous marriages between power and money in the Arab world had given birth to types of regimes that were capable of making one laugh and cry. These regimes could not be pinned down by such labels as ‘tribal fascism’ or ‘provincial fascism’." Instead, they were strange beasts that defied scientific taxonomy, especially following the oil boom of the 1970s when government merged with big business and developed traits such as entrenched social backwardness, cumbersome and parasitic bureaucracies, and systematic repression and violence.

During the last century, the major international powers followed a simple recipe in their policies towards the Middle East: force is the best way to handle the Arabs.

However, eventually the day came when the people rose up against these rulers, toppling their regimes one after the other. There was nothing that the US could do, despite its military might, to protect them, and indeed, it was forced to recognize the legitimacy of the revolutions and the right of the Arab people to choose their own leaders and to bring in genuinely democratic governments answering to the will of these peoples.

 

Courtesy: www.latheeffarook.com

This article also appeared in Ceylon Today 04/06/2012

 

 

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