Egypt’s 25 January Revolution produced few economic benefits for the country’s poor even though they were instrumental in overthrowing the old order. The Muslim Brotherhood has other economic priorities, including pushing measures that further economic liberalization in Egypt.
Given the Egyptian media’s focus, it might be difficult to believe that Egypt’s 25 January 2011 Revolution was not one of the educated middle class. On the TV screen, these shiny young faces appear on talk shows, portrayed as the leaders of the revolution.
But 28 January 2011’s “Friday of Anger” belonged to the marginalized who – using the tricks they learned in their daily battles with the state apparatus in the slums – were able to defeat the police forces. Regardless, the media see the revolution differently: “This is the revolution of dignity and not of the hungry,” they say.
This discourse paved the way for state repression of social demands. It even reached a point where the media began depicting Egypt’s working class – those that bolstered the revolution’s ranks with its mass mobilizations – of deliberately aiding the counter-revolution through strikes that hurt the economy. The first law issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) following their rise to power banned strikes.
As time passed, the voices of social justice were replaced by the murmurings of political battles. These politicians, who have the upper hand in the media, wanted a piece of the revolutionary pie after disregarding its true heros.
Post-Revolution, Little Help for the Poor
Even before the revolution, experts close to the ruling National Democratic Party saw signs of unrest rooted in growing poverty. This was clear in the First Investment Report: Towards a Fair Distribution of the Fruits of Growth prepared by the General Investment Authority in 2009, which warned of sharply rising poverty rates.
Despite the steady economic growth in the last decade of Mubarak’s rule, the proportion of the population living below the national poverty line rose from almost 17 percent of the population in 2000 to 22 percent in 2008, according to the latest figures available from the World Bank.
Nevertheless, when SCAF took power after the fall of Mubarak, they ignored these facts and rejected the expansionary budget presented by Minister of Finance and prominent NDP member Samir Radwan. Instead, the first post-revolution budget was austere: workforce training funds were scaled back to 1 billion Egyptian Pounds ($151 million) from an original 2 billion, and funds for low-income housing were never raised by the expected EGP500 million ($75 million).
Furthermore, SCAF sought to protect the rich from any burdens, such as the tax increase proposed by Radwan on the distribution of capital gains by financial institutions.
Although the last days of SCAF’s rule witnessed an open struggle between the military class and Islamist forces, the conflict was not an indication of different economic policies. “The Islamist parties, which between them won a majority in the 2011-12 parliamentary election appear to favor the continuation of a broadly pro-market policy…” explained an April 2012 report from Chatham House titled “‘Bread, Dignity and Social Justice’: The Political Economy of Egypt’s Transition.”
The new Egyptian Constitution is a glaring example of the bias of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) towards market liberalization. It stipulated linking salaries with production for the first time and neglected to set a ceiling for agricultural property.
But the constitution aligns with the Brotherhood’s previous positions: the group had been the primary opponent of agrarian reform during the Nasser era and endorsed a 1992 act liberating the relationship between landlord and tenant on agricultural land. The act had abolished gains won by peasants and was faced with wide-scale opposition in 1997.
The knockout blow to the MB’s popularity might be their attempt to implement a package of reforms for tax laws, which was frozen by President Mohamed Mursi a few hours after being announced. It would’ve raised sales taxes on several cement and communications goods and led to a steep increase on the commercial advertising tax – a move that could have hiked up the sales prices of nearly all goods and services.
It seems the MB has learned a lesson from the bread uprising against President Anwar Sadat in January 1977. At the time, the MB magazine al-Daawa described the protests as a “communist conspiracy.”
While the revolution seems to have resulted – at the very least – in a minimum wage increase to EGP700 ($105), the collapse of the Egyptian Pound against the US dollar this past January has precluded any benefits from such a raise.
History books will cite January 25 as the moment of undoing for the dictatorial rule of Mohammad Hosni Mubarak. What we don’t know is what will be said about the scale of the change brought about by the uprising.
It is impossible to make confident predictions at present. Questions only raise more doubts as to the ability of Egypt’s new rulers to bring about major change. But as social theorist Samir Amin points out: “The Egyptian people are brave and will not be afraid to start a second and a third uprising.”
The events of the past two years prove that Amin’s assessment is realistic. The ongoing struggle over Egypt is the clearest sign that the country’s new rulers have not managed to establish a strong enough hold to last as long as their predecessors.
A formidable media machine continues in its efforts to restrict the Egyptian people’s uprising. Many people inside and outside Egypt wanted to persuade the masses that the underlying goals of their protest movement could be reduced to a mere change of president. These people have assumed powerful influence within the state’s institutions and seek to re-establish their control over the public and private sectors of the economy. They want Egypt and the Arabs to behave as though change has been accomplished.
This takes us back to Amin, who noted the menace posed by foreign powers in Egypt. He referred to a cooperative endeavor by the US, Israel, and Gulf states to ensure Egypt’s continued reliance on a policy of “begging from abroad” so as to better maintain its “assistance for US policies in the region.”
He observed that while “Mubarak’s Egypt supported the US invasion of Iraq…today’s Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood assists the policies on Syria.” The end goal is for Egypt to acquiesce “to the Zionist scheme to eliminate the Palestinian presence within the occupied territory.”
There is no need to repeat Amin’s views on economic policy. The evidence that Egypt’s new rulers are resuming past economic policies is overwhelming. There will be no change in how the country’s economic, social, financial, and monetary policies are shaped. Hence the cruel joke that “Khairat el-Shater is Gamal Mubarak with a beard.”
Nobody can deny the Egyptian people’s massive achievement in bringing down a corrupt and tyrannical ruling clique that was subservient to the colonial West and submissive to the Zionist enterprise. But the story doesn’t end with the Muslim Brotherhood winning a narrow majority at the polls and claiming legitimacy to do what it likes with the country. Whatever misgivings there may be about the condition of the new opposition in Egypt, it has tough questions to face.
– What became of the legacy of Mubarak’s rule? What does the Islamic mantle mean when it is donned by rulers who pursue the same policies that they once said caused poverty, ignorance, and misery?
– Freedom of expression cannot be deemed a gift from the country’s new rulers. Egyptians are demanding guarantees that the gains made so far are not reversed. Can we expect a rotation of power in a few years time? Will Egypt’s new rulers help to recover its unified national identity, or will we see more ugly images of sectarian divisions?
– What real change has there been in the country’s foreign policy? What role does it play in reviving collective Arab action? Or has that been surrendered to the medieval monarchies of the Gulf? Is Egypt acting to regain its rights, sovereignty, and freedom with regard to supporting the people of Palestine?
– Can anyone provide any evidence that the money stolen by the National Democratic Party under Mubarak and his clique is being recovered? Or is the looted national wealth merely passing from one regime to the next?
Once again world public opinion faces a most bizarre political event: an alliance between political forces on the extreme Right and the Left, including collaboration between NATO regimes and Marxist sects. The apparent ‘unity of opposites’ is a response to alleged policy and institutional changes made by center-left and center-right regimes, which adversely affect both economic and political elites as well as the popular sectors.
The circumstances, under which this unholy alliance takes place, vary according to the type of regime, its policies and the class orientation of the opposition. The best way to analyze the left-right alliance is to examine the cases of Egypt and Argentina.
Egypt: The Alliance between Mubarak-Appointed Judges, Secular Liberals, Leftist Intellectuals and Disenchanted Workers
To understand the alliance between the corrupt remnants of the Mubarak state apparatus and their former political victims from the center-left and secular-right, it is essential to examine the political context, which has evolved since the overthrow of the Mubarak dictatorship in February 2011.
While Islamist and secular democratic forces played a major role in mobilizing millions of Egyptians in ousting the hated US-Israeli client, Hosni Mubarak, it was the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and their fundamentalist rivals, the Salafis, who won the majority of votes in the subsequent elections and formed the first democratically-elected government in Egypt.[i] In the beginning, the Muslim Brotherhood was forced to share power with the ‘transitional military junta’, which had seized power immediately after the ouster of Mubarak. Subsequently President Mohamed Morsi, from the Muslim Brotherhood, convoked elections to a constituent assembly and nominated a commission to write a new constitution. This was backed by a majority of the newly-elected Egyptian parliament. Reflecting the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral victory, the constitutional commission was dominated by its supporters. Many secular liberals and leftists rejected their minority status in the process.
Aside from his work on the constitutional front, Morsi negotiated a financial loan package of $4.5 billion with the IMF, $5 billion from the EU and an additional one billion dollars in US aid. These aid agreements were conditional on President Morsi implementing ‘free market’ policies, including an ‘open-door’ to foreign investment, ending food and fuel price subsidies to the poor and maintaining the humiliating Mubarak-era treaty with Israel, which included Egypt’s participation in the brutal blockade of Gaza.
While the despised US-Israel-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak may have been ousted from power and a new democratically-elected legislature had taken office (temporarily) along with President Morsi, Mubarak supporters continued to dominate key positions in the ministries, the entire judiciary, military and police. Thus powerfully ensconced, the Mubarak elite strove in every way to undermine emerging democratic institutions and processes. The Minister of Defense, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, shielded the police officials and paramilitary forces responsible for the jailing, torture and murder of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators. Mubarak-appointed judges arbitrarily disqualified legislative and presidential candidates, invalidated democratic elections and even ordered the closing of parliament. They then moved to outlaw the elected constituent assembly and the commission set-up to draft the new Egyptian constitution.
In other words, Mubarakites, embedded in the state apparatus, were engaged in an institutional coup d’etat to retain power, destabilize and paralyze the democratically-elected Morsi regime and create political disorder, propitious for a return to their dictatorial rule.
It was the Mubarak-appointed judges’ power-grab that eliminated the separation of powers by imposing arbitrary judicial decisions and powers over and above the hard-won electoral rights of Egyptian citizens and their elected legislature. The judges’ self-proclaimed assumption of legislative and executive supremacy was a direct assault on the integrity of the emerging democratic process.
When President Morsi finally moved to counter the Mubarak-allied judges’ dismissal of legitimately-elected bodies by assuming temporary emergency powers, these judges and their cheerleaders in the Western media accused him of subverting democracy and violating the ‘independence’ of the judiciary. The Western ‘liberal’ outcry at Morsi’s so-called ‘power grab’ is laughable given the fact that they ignored the naked ‘power grab’ of the judges when they dismissed Egypt’s parliament, its free elections and the writing of its new constitution under the leadership of Egypt’s new president. These cries of ‘democracy’ ring hollow from a judiciary, which had shamelessly legalized countless murders, tortures and dictatorial acts committed by Mubarak for over 30 years.
The judges’ democratic posturing and cries of injustice were accompanied by theatrical walkouts and protests aimed at mobilizing public opinion. Apart from a few thousand die-hard Mubarak holdovers, these judges managed to attract very little support, until secular liberals, leftists, trade unionists and sectors of the unemployed decided to intervene and try to win in the streets what they lost at the ballot box.
The popular protests, in contrast to the judges’ defense of Mubarak-era privilege and their blatant power grab, was based on Morsi’s failure to tackle the problems of growing unemployment and plummeting income, as well as his acceptance of IMF demands to end public subsidies for the poor. The secular-liberals joined forces with Mubarak-era judges in their clamor against ‘authoritarianism’ and pushed their own secular agenda against the Islamist tendencies in the regime and in the drawing up of the constitution. Pro-democracy youth sought to exploit the legislative vacuum created when the right-wing judges dismissed the parliament and put forward a vague notion of ‘alternative democracy’ … presumably one which would exclude the votes of the Islamist majority. The trade unions, which had led numerous strikes after the fall of Mubarak and remain a force among factory workers, joined the protests against Morsi, rejecting his embrace of the corporate elite. Even some Islamist groups, disgusted with Morsi’s accommodation with Israel and the US, also joined and took to the streets.
The US and the EU took advantage of the judges’ protest to step in and warn Morsi to abide to a ‘power sharing’ agreement with the Mubarak officials and the military or lose financial aid.
Washington has been playing a clever ‘two track policy’: They support Morsi when he implements a neo-liberal ‘free market’ domestic agenda using the Muslim Brotherhood networks to contain and limit popular protest among Egypt’s poor while threatening US aid if he vacillates on Mubarak-era agreements with Israel to starve Gaza. The White House insists that Morsi continue supplying cheap gas to Tel Aviv, as well as backing ongoing and future NATO wars against Syria and Iran. But the US and EU also want to keep the old reliable Mubarak power centers in place as a check and veto on Morsi in case a powerful anti-Zionist, populist urban movement pressures his regime to backtrack on the IMF program and the hated treaty with Israel.
The constitution, presented by the commission, is a compromise between Islamists, neo-liberals and democratic electoralists. This constitution undermines the judges’ power grab and allows the Morsi government to prosecute or fire the corrupt Mubarak-era officials; it guarantees the primacy of private, including foreign, property; it privileges Islamic law and provides ‘space’ and possibilities for Islamist leaders to restrict the rights of Egyptian women and religious minorities, notably the Coptic Christians.
A democratic vote on the constitutional referendum will test the strength of the pro and anti-government forces. A boycott by secular, liberal and populist-democratic forces will only demonstrate their weakness and strengthen the reactionary coup-makers embedded among the Mubarak-era officials in judiciary, police, military and civilian bureaucracy.
The Left and democratic-secular movements and leaders have formed an opportunistic, de-facto alliance with the Mubarak elite: a marriage of ‘the police club’ with its former victims, ‘the clubbed democrats’ of the recent past. The progressives overlook the danger of the judges’ creeping coup, in their blind effort to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood and the Morsi regime: It’s one thing to oppose Morsi’s reactionary agenda and the anti-popular votes of a reactionary legislature; it’s something totally different to promote the ouster of a democratically-elected legislature by hold-over judges pushing for the return of despotism. Undermining the democratic process will not only adversely affect President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood but also the democratic opposition. The prime beneficiaries will be the right-wing forces encrusted in the State.
The anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators, who are the clear losers in democratic elections and a minority in the country, burned and trashed the offices and meeting places of the Brotherhood and assaulted their supporters in the worst traditions of the Mubarak era. The self-styled ‘pro-democracy’ activists’ assaults on the Presidential palace and their rejection of Morsi’s call for dialogue has opened the way for the return of military rule. The military command’s thinly veiled threat was evident in their pronouncement that they would intervene with force to maintain order and protect the public if violence continues. The coincidence of prolonged street disorder and assaults on electoral politics with military overtures to take power have a distinct smell of a barnyard confabulation. The right-left alliance makes it difficult to decipher whether the violence is a staged provocation to bring the military back to power or an expression of leftist rage at their electoral impotence.
For strategic, pragmatic and principled reasons, the Left should have denounced the Mubarak-appointed judges the moment they outlawed the elected legislature. The Left should have demanded the ouster of these judges and military leaders and combined their demands with a campaign against Morsi’s ties with the imperial West and Israel and a repudiation of the IMF program. By backing these corrupt judges, progressives gained the short-term support of the Western media and governments while strengthening their strategic enemy.
Argentina: The Right-Left Alliance
President Cristina Fernandez is representative of the center-left regimes, which predominate in Latin America today. Her recent resounding electoral victory[ii] is a product of the popular uprisings (2001-2003), the social reforms and independent foreign policy pursued by her predecessor (and husband) Nestor Kirchner (2003-2007) and several popular reforms implemented under her Presidency.
But like all center-left regimes, President Fernandez (2008-2012) has combined conservative, neo-liberal and populist progressive policies. On the one hand, Fernandez has encouraged foreign mining companies to exploit the Argentina’s great mineral resources, charging very low royalty payments and imposing very few environmental restraints, while, on the other hand, she nationalized the abusive Spanish multinational oil company, Repsol, for non-compliance with its contract.
The government has substantially increased the minimum wage, including for farm workers, while opening up the country to overseas land speculators and investors to buy millions of acres of farmland. The government has allowed highly toxic-chemicals to be sprayed on fields next to rural communities while increasing corporate taxes and controls over agro-export earnings. The government passed legislation to restrict monopoly ownership of the mass media promising to expand media licensing to local communities and diverse social groups, while doing little to limit the power of big agro-export firms. President Fernandez has supported Latin American integration (excluding the US) and welcomed radical President Chavez as a valuable partner in trade and investment and diversified markets. At the same time Argentina has grown increasingly dependent on a narrow range of agro-mineral (‘primary goods’) exports to the detriment of domestic manufacturing. Presidents Fernandez and Kirchner encouraged trade union activity and, until recently, supported hefty increases in wage, pension and medical benefits, drastically reducing poverty levels – but they did so while maintaining the wealth, land, profits and dividends of the capitalist class.
The Argentine President was able to support both the economic elites and the working class as long as commodity prices and international demand remained high. However, with the economic slowdown in Asia and decline in commodity prices and therefore state revenue, the President is being squeezed from both sides. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the elite attacked the government more ferociously, led by the big and medium-size landowners and exporters. They demanded the government revoke its increase in export taxes and currency controls. The upper-middle and the affluent middle class of Buenos Aires, backed by supporters of the previous military dictatorship, organized mass marches and demonstrations to protest a medley of government policies, including limits on dollar purchases, inflation and inaction amidst rising crime rates.
Around the same time, conservative and radical leftist trade unionists organized a general strike – ostensibly because wage increases had failed to keep up with ‘real’ rates of inflation (double the ‘official rate’ – so they claimed). The major media monopoly, Clarin, organized a virulent systematic propaganda campaign trumpeting the demands of the economic elite, fabricating stories of government corruption and refusing to comply with the new government legislation in hopes of staving off the dismantling of its huge media monopoly.
The US and EU increased pressure on Argentina by excluding it from international capital markets, questioning its credibility, downgrading its ratings and promoting a virulently hostile anti-Fernandez mass media campaign in the financial press.
The destabilization campaign has been orchestrated by the same economic elites who supported the brutal seven-year military dictatorship during which an estimated 30,000 Argentines were murdered by the juntas. Elite opposition is rooted in reactionary social and economic demands, i.e. lower taxes on exports, deregulation of the dollar market, their monopoly of the mass media and a reversal of popular social legislation.
The ‘left opposition’ includes a variety of movements including Marxist grouplets and trade unions who demand salary increases commensurate with ‘real inflation’ as well as environmentalists demanding tighter controls over agro-chemical pollution, GM seeds and destructive mining operations. Many of these demands have legitimacy, however some of the Marxist and leftist groups have been participating in protests and strikes convoked by the right-wing parties and economic elites designed to destabilize and overthrow the government. Few if any have joined with the government to denounce the blatant US-EU credit squeeze and imperial offensive against Fernandez.
This de-facto Right-Left alliance on the streets is led by the most rancid, authoritarian and neo-liberal elites who ultimately will be the prime beneficiary if the Fernandez regime is destabilized and toppled. By joining general strikes organized by the far-Right, the left claims to be ‘furthering the interests of the workers’ and ‘acting independently’ of the economic elite. However, their activities take place at the same time and same location as the hordes of wealthy upper middle class protestors clamoring for the ouster of the democratically elected center-left regime. The left grouplets maintain that they are in favor of building a ‘workers state’ as they march abreast with the rich and militarists. Objectively, their capacity to catalyze a revolution is nil and the real outcome of their ‘opportunism’ will be a victory for the agro-export elite – mass media monopolies – US-EU alliance. The ‘leftist’ workers protest is mere window dressing for the destabilization of a social-liberal democracy and will help return a far-right regime to power!
The majority of the workers, pensioners and trade unionists reject any participation in the bosses’ general strikes – even as they voice their legitimate demands for better pay and the indexing of wage rates to the real inflation rate. However they join with the government in rejecting the international creditor demands and US judicial rulings favoring Wall Street speculators over Argentina’s social interests. Nevertheless, the left-right protest resonates with many rank and file employees, especially when export revenues decline and the Fernandez regime lacks the funds to maintain the social spending of the past decade.
The political challenge for the consequential Left is to defend democracy against this opportunist ‘Left’-Right onslaught while defending workers’ interests in the face of a decaying center-left regime bent on pursuing its contradictory program.
Conclusion: The Dilemmas of Capitalist Democracies
The capitalist democracies of Egypt and Argentina face similar Left-Right alliances, even though they differ sharply in their socio-economic trajectory and social bases of support. Both Argentina and Egypt have emerged from brutal dictatorships in recent years: Argentine democracy is nearly 30 years old while Egyptian democracy is less than a year old. Argentine democracy, like Egypt’s, has been confronting powerful authoritarian institutions leftover from the dictatorial period. These are entrenched especially in three areas: the military and police, the judiciary and among sectors of the capitalist class. They all benefited from the special privileges granted by the dictators.
In Argentina, over the past decade, Presidents Kirchner and Fernandez succeeded in purging the state apparatus of criminals, murderers and torturers among the military, police and judiciary. In Egypt, the Morsi regime, in its short time in office, hesitated at first, but then moved forward replacing some Mubarak military commanders and promising to investigate and prosecute those Mubarak-appointed officials involved in the killing and torture of pro-democracy demonstrators. The Egyptian reactionaries struck back: Mubarak-appointed judges denied the legality of the democratically elected legislature and constituent assembly. In Argentina, powerful agrarian interests and the right-wing mass media conglomerate, which had backed the dictatorships, struck back as the government moved to end the corporate media monopoly and tax concessions to the agro-export elite. The conflict between the dictatorial right and the democratic center-left in Argentina and the conflict between the Mubarak judiciary and the Islamist neo-liberal elected regime is partially obscured by the active involvement of leftists, secular liberals and other ostensibly ‘pro-democracy’ forces on the side of the Right.
Why has ‘the left’ crossed the line, joining forces with the anti-democratic right?
Their opportunism arises primarily from the fact that they did so poorly in the elections and do not see any role for themselves as an electoral opposition. By joining with the right-wing protests, the left and secular liberals mistakenly imagine they can revive their faltering support.
Secondly, the Left senses the economic and social vulnerability of the elected regimes because of the global and local crises, exacerbated by declining export revenues. They hope to attach their political demands to those of the upper and middle class protestors who have been mobilized by the Far Right.
Thirdly, by joining forces with the Right, allied with the US and EU, the leftist protestors hope to gain international (imperial) support, recognition, respectability and legitimacy … temporarily. Of course if the Right succeeds, the Left will be marginalized and discarded as ‘useful idiots’.
The imperial threats to cut off credits, loans and markets to both regimes should logically have led to a united front – a tactical alliance – between the Left and the embattled regime, especially in the case of Argentina. In the case of Egypt, secular liberals and leftists should have joined with the Morsi regime to oust the remnants of the brutal Mubarak regime. They should have supported the elected legislature, even while challenging Morsi’s pacts with the IMF, the US, EU and Israel. Instead, secular liberals appear to agree with the regime in its reactionary socio-economic policies. Worse, by joining with the reactionary judges in totally rejecting the referendum vote on the new constitution, the Left missed an opportunity to mobilize and challenge the regime and educate the public about its specific reactionary clauses.
By opposing the progressive democratic process as well as the regime, the Left has opened the door for the Right to return. By forcing incumbent presidents to ‘make a deal’ or compromise with the elite, the left is further isolating themselves. Both Morsi and Fernandez are vulnerable to leftist pressure and, over time, popular and class-based movements could find themselves in a position to pose a real alternative…. if they clearly and honestly reject the authoritarian and imperialist right. By joining in opportunist alliances to score some small victories today, they foreclose any possible role in the near future of forming progressive democratic leftist governments. By burning government offices and destroying the electoral offices of the Muslim Brotherhood, the self-styled ‘democrats’ are creating the basis for the seizure of state power by the military.
[i] In the parliamentary elections the two major Islamist parties polled over 27 million votes (18 million for the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi), the liberal-left opposition received approximately 7.5 million votes and the Mubarac-era parties got 2 million. The Islamist parties totaled about two-thirds of the electorate, which translated into the same proportion of elected legislators (358 out of 508). The liberal-left parties received slightly over 26% of the vote and the Mubarak parties got about 8%. The anti-Morsi rioters are a clear and decisive minority and their violent assault on the governing regime is, by any measure, an attempt to impose minority rule, denying and marginalizing the nearly 18 million voters who elected the Morsi Government and Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Congress.
[ii] Cristina Fernandez was first elected in October 2007 with 45.3% of the vote, a 22% lead over her nearest rival. In the most recent elections in October 2011, she was re-elected with 54.1% of the vote, a 37.3% margin over her nearest competitor.
James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York. He is the author of 64 books published in 29 languages, and over 560 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, Journal of Contemporary Asia, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has published over 2000 articles in nonprofessional journals such as the New York Times, the Guardian, the Nation, Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy, New Left Review, Partisan Review, Temps Moderne, Le Monde Diplomatique, and his commentary is widely carried on the internet. His most recent books are: The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counterattack (Clarity Press 2012) 2nd edition, The Power of Israel in the United States and Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire: Bankers, Zionists and Militants, (acquired for Japanese, German, Italian, Indonesian, Czech and Arabic editions), Zionism, Militarism and the Decline of US Power, Global Depression and Regional Wars: The United States, Latin America and the Middle East, and War Crimes in Gaza and the Zionist Fifth Column in America. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. In 1973-76 he was a member of the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Repression in Latin America. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, Le Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. He received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.
The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) ruled Saturday to uphold the verdict of the High Constitutional Court (HCC) deeming the People’s Assembly, formed after national polls in November 2011 unconstitutional. The assembly was dissolved on the basis of that verdict.
Although the SAC adjourned a similar case Saturday appealing the dissolution of the People Assembly, parliament’s lower house, to 15 October, only hours later it ruled in a different case in favour of the HCC verdict.
The dissolution of the People’s Assembly was a matter of great controversy in past months since HCC decision 14 June. The Muslim Brotherhood, forming the largest bloc of the former People’s Assembly, vociferously opposed the verdict together with other Islamists, with many of their lawyers working to saving the assembly through legal appeals.
Upon his inauguration, President Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood’s ranks, declared the People’s Assembly reinstated. However, after his decision was deemed legally flawed, parliament did not resume its functions, waiting for the Administrative Court’s final verdict on filed appeals.
Several Brotherhood members, including acting chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and former MP Essam El-Erian as well as secretary general of the FJP and former Parliament Speaker Mohamed Saad El-Katatni were amongst the most prominent figures confirming there was a legal possibility that the assembly would be reinstated.
Their statements were repeatedly criticised by legal experts who argued that the reinstatement of the assembly was unlikely considering that the HCC had already ruled on its unconstitutionality.
Meanwhile, the newly appointed justice minister, Ahmed Mekki, earlier criticised the HCC for issuing its verdict dissolving the elected parliament, arguing that in light of the political situation at the time it should have postponed cases related to parliament along with other politically charged cases.
The general assembly of the HCC in response condemned Mekki’s statements implying their verdict was “politically motivated.” In its statement, the HCC described his criticism as “unacceptable interference” in the court’s work, insisting that all the court’s verdicts were based on constitutional legitimacy, refuting claims they were politically biased.
The SAC in issuing its verdict Saturday also confirmed that the HCC was the body with the final say on the matter. The SAC stated that only the HCC has the authority to decide whether the People’s Assembly should be dissolved or not on the basis of the constitutionality of the elections law that governed prior polling.
Earlier on Saturday Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsoud expressed his lack of hope that the dissolved People’s Assembly could be reinstated after the SAC adjourned the parallel case to mid-October.
The latest constitutional addendum dictates that new parliamentary elections should follow the approval of a new constitution by two months. Around 70 per cent of the constitution is reported to be in final draft form, with progress being made on the remainder. Some expect to see a full draft sometime in October.
Leading Brotherhood members also made earlier statements indicating that in the case that the People’s Assembly was not reinstated and new elections take place, the FJP — the political arm of the Brotherhood — will run for 100 per cent of available parliamentary seats.
Other similar controversial cases still awaiting the court’s final verdict include the case against the constitutionality of the Shura Council (parliament’s upper house) and a similar case against the Constituent Assembly, tasked with drafting Egypt’s new constitution, which was chosen by the dissolved People’s Assembly.
- Former MP charges Egypt’s Morsi with ‘sacrificing’ People’s Assembly (azzasedky.typepad.com)
Thousands of Jordanians have taken to the streets across the country in protest against a hike in fuel prices for the second time in three months.
Chanting anti-government slogans, the protesters from the capital, Amman, to the southern city of Maan rallied late Saturday, demanding the immediate resignation of the country’s Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh.
“The royal palace is standing between the people and their rights,” the protesters chanted.
The Jordanian government said the fuel price rise was necessary, arguing that the costly fuel subsidies have caused a rampant budget deficit.
Jordanians, however, blame the royal palace and corruption as the real reasons behind Jordan’s economic crisis.
The Saturday evening demonstrations, organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, were the largest to hit the country in months.
Jordanians have been holding street protests since January 2011, calling for political reforms, transfer of royal power to the people and an end to corruption.
Since the demonstrations began, the Jordanian King has sacked two prime ministers to appease the protesters.
The king has also amended some articles of the 60-year-old constitution, ostensibly granting the parliament a more assertive role in the decision-making process.
- Jordanian Websites Go Dark in Protest of Proposed Legislation to Censor Internet (techpresident.com)
- Jordan hikes gasoline prices for second time this year (worldbulletin.net)
- Jordanians detained after tomato attack on PM motorcade (dailystar.com.lb)
- Jordanians Protest Internet Censorship Law With SOPA-Style Blackout (eff.org)
The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt stated that Sunday’s attack against an Egyptian military base in the Sinai, “could be attributed to the Israeli Mossad”, adding that this attack aimed to foil efforts of newly-elected Islamist President Mohammad Morsi.
In an online statement, the Brotherhood said that Israel is trying to foil the achievements of the Egyptian revolution that removed former President Hosni Mubarak from power. The Brotherhood added, “this attack pushes all related sides into reconsidering the articles of the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement”.
The Brotherhood stated that after the Egyptian revolution several groups tried to sabotage popular achievements and began plotting against the country and its people.
“Yesterday, a group of criminals attacked our policemen, killed nearly twenty soldiers, brothers, in an ugly crime, before the criminals managed to hijack two armored vehicles and drove them towards the border”, the Brotherhood said. “Immediately after the attack, Zionist media agencies accused fighters in Gaza of being behind the criminal attack; the timing of the attack comes to create a rift between Gaza and Egypt”.
The Brotherhood also said that the attack aims to prove the failure of the new Egyptian government, formed just three days ago, “to foil the reform agenda of the newly elected Islamic president”.
“This crime carries the signature of the Israeli Mossad as Israel has been trying to sabotage the achievements of the revolution, especially when taking into consideration that just a few days before this attack was carried out, Israel called on its tourists to leave Sinai”, the Brotherhood added.
The Muslim Brotherhood further called on the Egyptian people to counter the criminal activities collaborators, and to stand with the newly elected president in his efforts to restore law and order, and to maintain a strong security situation.
- Analysts say Sinai attack attempt to strain Egypt-Gaza relations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- August 5 Sinai Attack Bears All the Hallmarks of an Israeli False Flag (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court on Tuesday froze a decree issued by President Mohamed Mursi reinstating the Islamist-led parliament, a judicial source said.
The decision is expected to raise tensions between Mursi, the top court and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) which handed over power to the new president at the end of June.
“The court ordered the freeze of the president’s decree,” the source said.
On Sunday, just eight days after taking office, Mursi, a former member of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, ordered the lower house to reconvene.
His move highlighted the power struggle between the president and the Supreme Constitutional Court which last month said certain articles in the law governing the parliament elections were invalid, annulling the lower house.
The judicial source added: “The court ordered that its previous ruling (invalidating the elections and annulling the lower house) be implemented.”
The latest announcement came hours only after the dissolved parliament convened on Tuesday in defiance of the powerful SCAF and the judiciary.
“We are gathered today to review the court rulings, the ruling of the Supreme Constitutional Court,” which ordered the house invalid, speaker Saad al-Katatni said.
“I want to stress, we are not contradicting the ruling, but looking at a mechanism for the implementation of the ruling of the respected court. There is no other agenda today,” he added.
SCAF, which ruled Egypt after dictator Hosni Mubarak was ousted in last year’s popular uprising, dissolved the house and took legislative control using a document granting it supreme powers.
On Monday, the Supreme Constitutional Court rejected Mursi’s decree, saying that all of its rulings were binding.
“All the rulings and decisions of the Supreme Constitutional Court are final and not subject to appeal…and are binding for all state institutions,” it said.
And the military echoed it with a statement late on Monday saying the constitution and the law must be upheld.
- Egyptian parliament dissolution “binding” (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Egypt People’s Assemby refers own fate back to the Judiciary (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Police have surrounded the area around the parliament
Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court is expected to decide in a meeting on President Mohamed Morsi’s order to reconvene the dissolved parliament.
Shortly after the announcement of Morsi’s order on Sunday, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) held an emergency meeting, but it did not take any concrete action.
The military authorities are set to convene once again to discuss the consequences of the decree by the newly-elected president.
The Egyptian president ordered the country’s dissolved parliament to resume its legislative work, rejecting the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court’s ruling that said the country’s parliamentary elections about 7 months ago were unconstitutional.
The Egyptian president also called for holding new parliamentary elections within 60 days of the ratification of the new constitution for the North African state.
Protests have been going on since the junta dissolved the country’s parliament dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt’s junta also took control of the state budget and gave itself veto power on a new constitution, making the new president almost powerless through a recent constitutional declaration.
Despite Morsi’s calls for resumption of parliament’s legislative work, police have surrounded the area around the parliament , making the entrance to the parliament building almost impossible for lawmakers.
- Morsi reinstates Egypt’s dissolved lower house; SCAF holds emergency meeting (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Press TV has interviewed Hisham Tillawi, journalist and political commentator from Lafayette, Louisiana about the movements of US and Western influence through SCAF that has transformed a popular Egyptian uprising to a contentious civil election while the US keeps control of Egypt’s foreign policy. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.
Press TV: Why don’t you tell us what you think about this. This situation where the votes were supposed to be announced on Monday (6 days past), what is going on with all the different announcements by SCAF in terms of consolidating their grip on power with that Declaration stripping powers from the presidency along with the dissolution of parliament – dissolving the parliament, obviously it shows on the surface that they don’t want to give up that power do they?
Tillawi: You reap what you sow and so whomever planted this revolution will reap the fruit. Now, if this revolution was planted by the people and designed by the people then the people will reap the fruit, but if it was designed by the West then the West is going to reap the fruit.
From the beginning in the first interview that I had with you on this Arab Spring thing, I made a statement that what is required now is total chaos in the Middle East in the Arab countries. It does not want to give stability and democracy etc, etc and this is not a friend that we are witnessing, it is a foe.
Now, having said that this is not how democracy works. Let’s assume that actually Ahmed Shafiq had won – let’s just assume that… and if Ahmed Shafiq won I guarantee you that the country will go down into a dark alley of chaos, total chaos, violent chaos.
And if Ahmed Shafiq won and the Military Council is afraid that they are going to have chaos in the country now that Ahmed Shafiq won and actually decides to keep stability and gives it to Mohamed Morsi, then that’s not democracy.
And it’s not democracy to send your people into the Square to demand that Morsi becomes the next president. That’s not how democracy works.
I remember the first time George Bush stole the election in the US, even though he did not win the election and it was clear that he did not win the election, but he was appointed by the Supreme Court in a vote of 5 to 4 and everybody in the country accepted that Supreme Court vote of 5 to 4. We did not see people in the street demanding this and going into breakdown… that is what we’re going to see in Egypt if Morsi is not the next president of Egypt.
And if Ahmed Shafiq is the president then we know that the West won because we know that the West won when they installed the Military Supreme Council. This is a group of people the US have put in power and they give them so much authority that they can even dissolve a parliament.
So now it is in the hands of the Western powers. Everything that is going on in Egypt is in the hands of the Western powers and whoever gives the Western powers a deal will be the next government and the next power in Egypt.
Press TV: When we look at what has happened in the past year or so, since the revolution took place there was plenty of time for SCAF especially after the parliamentary elections to try to get a deal together with the Muslim Brotherhood given that they had the majority.
Of course we heard then when there were some new appointments to the Upper and Lower House of parliament that there was an even divide in terms of representation. Was that all? Did that not yield any results for them to come out with these statements and motions recently such as dissolving the parliament and the Declaration stripping the president of its powers?
Tillawi: We have to look at Egypt not just as in Egypt only, but the forces that are assisting what is going on in Egypt from the outside. Now, there was a deal made between the Supreme Council and the US and this deal was… the US pressured the Supreme Council that actually the form of government that they would like to see in Egypt is not the democracy that is in the US, but they wanted something similar to the Pakistani model.
They wanted a strong Military Council that can sit in anytime and decide actually when to go to war, when to do this and when to do that; and they wanted a president who’s going to handle basically domestic issues and run the government.
That’s the deal that was made with the US so the Military Council… now let’s not forget that the US still pays 3 billion dollars to Egypt; still pays a billion and a half to the military – so it’s a money issue here.
They are putting pressure on the Military Council and the Military Council cannot really change the formula that they have agreed on with the Americans. The formula is for a strong military council to rule, that could be in the background, while you have a president and a government.
That’s the model that the US wants to see in Egypt. Now, is this going to work in Egypt? Well, you have powers from the outside wanting this; you have powers on the inside wanting true democracy.
Now we are going to wait and see who is going to win. Is it going to be the Western powers with the Military Council’s model; or is it going to be the people where the president would have the total power where all power has been transferred and transformed from the Military Council to civilian power.
That, the US would actually have to decide that and I know why the US is going to go with it, they want to keep the Military Council power.
Press TV: Well, who are they going to go with – what do you mean – do you have an answer to that?
Tillawi: If you’re talking about Shafiq or Morsi… well, it doesn’t really matter. As long as the Military Council is in power they have total power. They can change… they can come up with laws; they can change the formula anytime they want, so it doesn’t really matter. But it matters to the Egyptian street about who the president is.
To America, the US, it doesn’t matter because you have the Military Council in power, but to the Egyptian street, if Shafiq is the president then you’re going to see total chaos and violence and maybe civil war in Egypt; if it’s Morsi then that’s OK as long as – and that’s OK with the US, they don’t care – as long as the Military Council is in power because the Military Council is the one that is going to decide the foreign policy for Israel for the West…
So for the US it doesn’t really matter if it is Morsi or Shafiq, but to the Egyptian street it does matter and to the future of Egypt it does matter… if it’s Shafiq, we’re going to have total chaos in Egypt.
Press TV: But there are a couple of problems there don’t you think, if we want to look at the loopholes here: a) you have all these Egyptians who are against the Military Council having a grip on power and of course that’s something you’re saying it doesn’t matter who the faces are, it’s based on America’s influence – but that’s not something the Egyptians are going to go for.
And second of all – who’s to say the Muslim Brotherhood is going to settle for a position that does not give them any type of authority really. In essence they have to bow to the SCAF for in general exercising any type of power in whatever jurisdiction or whatever area that has to do with Egypt and I would think that is to include foreign policy.
Tillawi: Well, let’s not forget that the Muslim Brotherhood did make some deals with the US, too. I mean, we know about those deals even when Mubarak was still in power – there were deals made with the Muslim Brotherhood before the revolution.
So the Muslim Brotherhood and the US, they’re not enemies, they can make deals and in the end, like we have seen in Yemen, like we have seen in many other places, the US will be the major player and they will play all these forces according to their best interests.
Now, … the people have power, but the people also are receiving 3 billion dollars that they cannot do without from the US. So let’s not just concentrate on what the people power and what the people want because if the people got what they want then we would not see all these regimes in the Arab world that we’ve seen for the last forty years.
What the people want and what they can do, it all depends on the Western powers if they are going to be on the street to stir the street up, then you’re going to see the people actually moving up.
Let’s just not say, well, the Egyptian don’t want this. Well, it’s not up to the Egyptians. Like I said, my first statement was – he who starts will reap what he sews so whoever planted this will reap the fruits of this – let’s not forget that. If it was the US or the West actually that stirred this all up in the Middle East then they’re going to reap that.
People don’t like to hear that, people like to hear revolutions and Arab Springs; well unfortunately it’s not what it looks like.
Press TV: You spoke at length the direction that the foreign policy is going to be heading, which behind the scenes obviously the US is the contributor to that 1.3 billion dollars in aid – Tell us then what the US has in mind? From what I understood from you, they don’t particularly care about what is going on inside Egypt as long as they’re in control of the institution that is running Egypt and that would be SCAF.
So are we looking at for example, the peace treaty still being in place; are we still looking at the situation with Gaza for example and Palestinians to still be the same as it was when Mubarak was in power?
Tillawi: To firstly answer the question you asked your correspondent – yes it is true that it’s split in the middle – half the voters voted for Shafiq and half voted for Morsi. That is true so the Egyptian street is split right in the middle on those two presidential candidates.
Press TV: Do you really believe that after seeing what goes on every week in Tahrir Square or is Tahrir Square not the representation?
Tillawi: Well, Tahrir Square is the representation for one party for one side… you have many millions of Egyptians out there and yes from the numbers that we have seen i.e. the numbers that came out of all these polling stations it is almost split in half between both of them.
Press TV: Yes but you have 50 percent of the population that lives below two dollars a day; you have people who have not seen Ahmed Shafiq campaigning in their neighborhoods aside from the Muslim Brotherhood to have gone there. There are those that the Muslim Brotherhood took care of for all these years, not Ahmed Shafiq who is a former remnant. I mean, is that not the way it is?
Tillawi: Sure definitely. You have to keep in mind that not everyone that can vote went and voted. And many of these people you’re talking about living on less than 2 dollars a day, many of them probably did not go to vote unless they are connected with the Muslim Brotherhood or any other organization.
But you have to understand that what is going on in Egypt… you asked me about the US and the peace treaty, the Muslim Brotherhood already said they will keep the peace treaty. They cannot afford not to keep the peace treaty with Israel…
Press TV: Why can’t they afford that? Why is that?
Tillawi: Because they’re getting 4 billion dollars into their economy from the West. Had the Egyptians replaced their foreign aid with money from their country then they can tell the US to go to hell. But as long as there are controls over money, there are controls of many things from the West, you know, he who feeds you gets to control you.
What are the Egyptians going to do? If they tell the US look we’re not going to do anything with you… what’s going to happen?
Press TV: That’s not what I’m saying… Egypt itself has resources, they have gas, they have a textile industry, they have tourism, and they have enough resources to run their country. Why do they have to get that aid in terms of their army? That should be coming out from within their country if they hadn’t controlled the wealth through Mubarak and the upper class. That’s the part that I don’t understand?
Tillawi: I don’t think you can look at it that way because the control from Mubarak through Sadat… these are successional ideas. You’ve got to look at the real thing that is going on.
You have unemployment in Egypt is extremely high, the economy in Egypt is in a disastrous situation. Now, if you can come up with a revolution that was not started by the West; if this revolution was started by the people on the street, by the people who make less than 2 dollars a day, then I can tell you yes they can tell the US to go to hell…
Against all odds the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) candidate, Dr. Muhammad Mursi won Egypt’s first presidential election since the ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak… but barely. Although the official results will not be announced until Thursday, the final tally shows that Mursi received 13.3 million votes (52 percent) while Mubarak’s last prime minister and the candidate of the military and the regime remnants, Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, garnered 12.4 million votes (48 percent).
It should never have been that close. Countless people wonder how a popular revolution that united millions of Egyptians against a corrupt regime and earned the world’s admiration, could have resulted in that same loathed regime on the brink of reclaiming power after little more than a year. Of course, the direct answer to this question is the ominous role played by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took control of the country after Mubarak’s downfall, as well as the institutions of Egypt’s deep security state.
Their tactics included the direct manipulations of the elections process, the inexplicably favorable decisions by the Mubarak-era Presidential Elections Commission, the use of state media as well as private media outlets controlled by Mubarak-era corrupt businessmen to frighten the public about the specter of an impending theocracy, the clever ability to play the pro-revolution groups against each other, and the SCAF-appointed government’s deliberate disruption of the daily lives of ordinary Egyptians through the constriction of key staples and a lack of security in the street. Soon the public associated the revolution with instability, shortages and chaos. Dejected, many wished for the days of the old regime.
Throughout last year and aided by the Muslim Brotherhood’s missteps and behind-the-scenes dalliances with the generals, SCAF was able to create acute alienation and sow real mistrust between the MB, the country’s largest organized movement, and the rest of the pro-revolution and youth groups. By the end of March 2012, SCAF felt so emboldened by the success of its plan that it began to openly challenge and threaten the now alienated MB, despite the fact that the group was by that time firmly in charge of both chambers of parliament.
By the end of the first round of the presidential elections, SCAF succeeded in propelling its preferred candidate to second place behind the MB candidate. Ironically, both sides calculated that their chances of capturing the presidency would be greatly enhanced if they faced each other. The military’s candidate believed that he would then reinvent the old regime by presenting to the confused and frightened public with the stark choices between the civil state represented by himself and a menacing religious state epitomized by his opponent. On the other hand, the MB believed that its best chance would be to face a candidate from the loathed Mubarak era so as to force the pro-revolution groups to support its candidate despite the ill feelings generated towards the Islamic group (especially when it abandoned the youth groups during their confrontations with SCAF during much of last year).
After the first round of the presidential elections, the pro-revolution groups garnered almost 15 million votes (with Mursi receiving 5.8 million). On the other hand, Mubarak-era affiliated candidates received 8 million votes (led by Shafiq’s 5.5 million votes.) But the two major (though defeated) candidates supported by the pro-revolution groups in the first round were Hamdein Sabahi and Dr. Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, receiving 4.8M and 4.1M votes respectively.
Although Abol Fotouh promptly threw his support behind Mursi, citing the threat to the revolution if the military man won, Sabahi asked his supporters to invalidate their votes or boycott the elections, hoping to create a dynamic where both candidates could somehow lose in the court of public opinion. This would set the stage for his comeback as the pro-revolution and pro-civil state candidate. Quietly, SCAF’s candidate hoped that enough of Sabahi’s supporters would boycott the elections or invalidate their votes so that the numerical advantage of the pro-revolution groups would be neutralized.
As the military’s scheme was in full force relying on media offensive, bribes, and scare tactics, several polls conducted by state-sponsored institutions confirmed to SCAF that Shafiq had the momentum. The support of the military and the institutions of the deep state became even bolder, so much so that many political analysts thought the elections were practically over. To push this sentiment of inevitability, SCAF threw caution to the wind and committed a major error in judgment. In fact, it might have actually cost Shafiq the election.
Since the standoff between SCAF and the MB in March, it was widely known that SCAF could push for the dissolution of the elected parliament at any time in order to check the MB’s rise to power. The argument advanced by many pro-revolution groups that had reservations in supporting Mursi was that they did not want the MB to have unchecked control over both branches of government, the legislative and the executive. So when the High Constitutional Court dissolved the parliament two days before the elections, this brazen act of disregard for the electoral will of the Egyptian people actually backfired. A major segment of the Egyptian electorate, who intended to boycott or invalidate their votes, were so infuriated that they decided to vote for Mursi even if they initially did not intend to cast a vote at all (in the final count, less than 1 percent of the electorate invalidated their votes by checking both names on the ballot). Had a half million people out of over 25 million votes cast flipped their votes, the military’s candidate would have won.)
Last winter, in a moment of candor President Jimmy Carter said after meeting with SCAF’s leaders that the military had no intention of relinquishing power. In recent weeks it became quite clear what that observation meant. First, SCAF would utilize the instruments of power of the deep state to install its candidate. If such a scheme did not materialize, SCAF had a back-up plan. In such a case, it would not only take several actions that strip the real powers of the elected president (if he comes from the revolutionary camp), but also usurp all the legislative and executive powers from the newly empowered groups.
Many political figures including former presidential candidate Abol Fotouh called SCAF’s blatant acts “a soft military coup d’état.” Here are a few examples of the power grab measures taken by SCAF in a matter of days:
1) On June 14, SCAF sent the army to occupy the parliamentary building in anticipation of the dissolution of parliament by the High Court. Within days it issued its own decree to dissolve the parliament and reclaimed all legislative powers to itself. Typically when the parliament is dissolved, the president would be granted temporary legislative powers, to be reviewed later by the parliament when it is reconstituted.
2) On the same day the Justice Minister made a mockery of the repealed martial laws by effectively restoring the emergency laws and empowering the military and security agencies to arrest and detain anyone indefinitely, as well as to try in military courts any person deemed a threat to public order.
3) Within two hours of the closing of the polls on June 17, SCAF unilaterally issued a sweeping amended constitutional declaration that effectively transferred much of the presidential powers to itself. For example, it stripped the president of his role as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and gave it to SCAF’s top general, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi. It prevented the president from promoting or dismissing any military personnel. It also granted itself veto power over any decision by the president related to any military matter including the declaration of war or any domestic use of the armed forces.
Now instead of the military working under the country’s president, the new declaration places the democratically elected president under the thumb of the military. It must be noted that such incredible measures are not dissimilar to the infamous and disastrous 1997 Turkish military coup d’état against the late Prime Minister Necmttin Erbakan.
4) SCAF stripped the president and the executive branch from any matters related to the state budget. It even declared its own budget secret and not subject to any accountability while providing itself total immunity.
5) Further, SCAF imposed its will on the new president by effectively retaining for itself the appointment of the most senior cabinet positions such as defense, foreign, and interior ministries, police, finance, justice, and intelligence.
6) SCAF also started the process of dissolving the one-hundred member constitution-writing committee, appointed delicately by the parliament last week from across all the spectrum of Egyptian political and civil society. In the new constitutional declaration, SCAF gave itself the right to reappoint the one-hundred committee members in a direct violation of the constitutional amendments passed by the people in the March 2011 referendum.
Moreover, if that committee refused to give the military its coveted special status in the new constitution, SCAF claimed a veto power over any articles written in the draft. If the committee then overrides SCAF’s veto, the declaration empowers Mubarak’s appointed judges in the High Court to decide the dispute between the two parties, in an incredible attempt to impose the military’s dictates on the country.
7) One day after the elections, as it became apparent that SCAF’s candidate was defeated, SCAF issued another decree that revived the National Defense Council (NDC), a body that has been dormant since the late 1980s. The function of this council is to make decisions on all strategic, defense, and national security matters. In another affront to the first-ever civilian (not to mention democratically elected) president, the NDC’s members comprise eleven generals (all from SCAF) and only five civilians, including the president. It decides all matters by a majority vote, thus tying the hands of the president regardless of where he stands on a particular issue.
8) Not content with its sweeping power grab, SCAF’s head, Tantawi, then issued another decree appointing one of his assistants, another military general, as the chief of staff of the new elected president to act as the eyes and ears of SCAF over the new president before he even took office. In the eyes of the military the new (read puppet) president would not even be allowed to appoint his own chief of staff.
As expected this wholesale usurpation of power by the military was universally condemned not only by the new elected president, the MB, and the rest of the revolutionary groups, but also by most civil society groups and public figures. Meanwhile, counting on a business as usual with the MB, SCAF has quietly started another tactic to pressure the MB into submission. It revived a court case seeking the dissolution of the MB, declaring it an illegal group and confiscating its assets. A decision on the matter is expected soon.
One of the reasons that SCAF hopes to get its way this time is because it relies on its experience during the last year of making behind-the-scenes deals with the MB. In fact, just a week before the elections, MB deputy leader and strongman Khairat El-Shater met with senior SCAF leaders, offering them a deal that would have granted the military generals many (but not all) of their requests in return for an accommodation of the MB candidate. SCAF’s response was cold and aloof, believing that their candidate was a shoe-in in the elections without the need to compromise. Little did El-Shater know, they were in fact preparing not only to defeat the Islamic candidate but also to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood-led parliament.
But after the dissolution of parliament and the anticipated disbanding of the constitution-writing committee, as well as the usurpation of legislative and executive powers by SCAF, the MB decided to re-join the other pro-revolution and civil society groups in challenging the military’s suffocating control over the country, taking to the streets in massive numbers in all of this week.
This showdown between SCAF and the deep state on one hand, and the pro-revolution forces (newly empowered by the defeat of the military’s candidate) promises to engulf the country for the days and weeks ahead. If the Islamic parties led by the MB and the other pro-revolution supporters led by the youth groups, as well as many respected judges across the country such as Judge Husam El-Gheryani (head of the Supreme Judiciary Council as well as the chairman of the constitution-writing committee) join together and take a firm stand against the military, then it might be very difficult for SCAF to have its way.
The demands of the revolutionary groups should be clear: the return of the military to its barracks without any interference of the political or civilian affairs of the state. SCAF must immediately rescind its unconstitutional declaration usurping the legislative and executive powers from the democratically elected parliament and president. It should also cease all efforts to dissolve the constitution-writing committee and allow the political process as negotiated by all various political parties to take place. It should finally halt its behind-the-scenes manipulation of the judiciary to interfere in political matters.
The pro-revolution forces have fortunately dodged a bullet by defeating the military’s candidate. But the struggle to reclaim their revolution must continue to persist. This time all pro-revolution and pro-democracy groups must realize that they will have to swim or drown together as they face the last battle to dismantle the military and security state. No more making behind-closed-doors deals or giving the benefit of the doubt in a tacit understanding between the military and some political groups. The MB must realize that it gained more than 7.5M votes (for a total of 13.3M) from the pro-revolution forces in the second round, after reaching its peak in the first round with 5.8M votes. It must show respect and offer real partnership to these groups.
Hall of fame baseball player Yogi Berra once said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice there is.” In theory, pro-revolution supporters should put all their disagreements aside and unite until their remarkable revolution prevails as all counter-revolutionary elements within the state are purged and all the obstacles to its ultimate success are eradicated. It is indeed prudent to think that all such groups could set aside their differences (whether perceived or real) once they realize how hard and to what extent their opponents are determined to break their spirit for real change.
Revolutions are ultimately about the simultaneous act of a great number of people who decide to stand up for the greater good of society over self-interest. Such selfless conduct is often accompanied with the willingness to sacrifice whatever it takes to fulfill the genuine desire for public good and human progress.
Esam Al-Amin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
- The True Face of Egypt’s Military (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The Muslim Brotherhood declared early Monday that its candidate, Mohammed Mursi, won Egypt’s presidential election over Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmad Shafiq.
But the military handed itself the lion’s share power over the new president, sharpening the possibility of confrontation. With parliament dissolved and martial law effectively in force, the generals issued an interim constitution granting themselves sweeping authorities that ensure their hold on the state and subordinate the president.
The Muslim Brotherhood said Sunday it did not recognize the dissolution of parliament, where it was the largest party. It also rejected the military’s right to issue an interim constitution and oversee the drafting of a new one.
Official final results are not due until Thursday, and Shafiq’s campaign challenged the Brotherhood claim, which was based on the group’s compilation of election officials’ returns from nearly all polling centers nationwide.
But at their campaign headquarters, the Brotherhood officials and supporters were ebullient over the turn of fate.
In a victory speech at the headquarters, Mursi said he seeks “stability, love and brotherhood for the Egyptian civil, national, democratic, constitutional and modern state”.
“Thank God, who successfully led us to this blessed revolution. Thank God, who guided the people of Egypt to this correct path, the road of freedom, democracy,” the 60-year-old U.S.-educated engineer declared.
He vowed to all Egyptians, “men, women, mothers, sisters … all political factions, the Muslims, the Christians” to be “a servant for all of them.” “We are not about taking revenge or settling scores. We are all brothers of this nation, we own it together, and we are equal in rights and duties.”
“Down with military rule,” the supporters chanted at the headquarters.
“The next phase is more difficult. We must all unite against the oppressive rule of the military council,” MB founder Ahmed Maher said.
By the group’s count, Mursi took 13.2 million votes, or 51.8 percent, to Shafiq’s 48.1 percent out of 25.5 million votes with more than 99 percent of the more than 13,000 poll centers counted.
The Brotherhood’s early, partial counts proved generally accurate in last month’s first round vote.
The Shafiq campaign accused the Brotherhood of “deceiving the people” by declaring victory. A campaign spokesman on the independent ONTV channel said counting was still going on with Shafiq slightly ahead so far.
- Muslim Brotherhood rejects dissolution of Egyptian parliament (alethonews.wordpress.com)