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article imageOp-Ed: Is the revolution dead in Egypt?

By Ken Hanly     Jul 10, 2012 in Politics
Cairo - The armed forces council (SCAF) is in control in Egypt. The president is a Muslim Brotherhood member. The secular and liberal protesters who led the revolution are sidelined. Egyptians seek order and security rather than revolution and democracy.
The newly elected president Mohamed Morsi challenged the ruling military council (SCAF) by issuing a decree that annuls the decision by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to dissolve parliament. SCAF dissolved parliament after the Constitutional Court ruled that there were irregularities in the election that violated the constitution. President Morsi also ordered that the parliament reconvene on Tuesday (July 10).
The military council did not prevent the parliament from convening. Surely this is a sign that there are behind the scenes negotiations on what is to be allowed. The substance of the meeting is also of interest. Parliament Speaker Saad el-Katatni told lawmakers that the legislature met to find ways to implement the court ruling rather than debate it out of respect for the principles of “the supremacy of the law and separation of authorities.”
Clearly the parliament is not directly attacking the court ruling although the very fact that the parliament is meeting at all conflicts with the military order that dissolved parliament. Nevertheless the army is willing to allow this symbolic act as part of a delicate dance with the Muslim Brotherhood. For its part the SCAF has repeated its own position that the armed forces sided with the "constitution, legitimacy, and law". Both the Muslim Brotherhood and SCAF are key players in the new Egypt. Neither will bring about any radical change and both are committed to neoliberal policies.
The Muslim Brotherhood is long established in Egypt although under Mubarak leaders were often jailed including now president Morsi. The Brotherhood's political clout is due to its integral connection to many in Egyptian society especially the less well off.The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has more than three hundred thousand members and runs numerous institutions, including hospitals, schools, banks, businesses, foundations, day care centers, thrift shops, social clubs, and facilities for the disabled.
The army is connected to the economy through ownership and management of economic enterprises. The exact degree of the armed forces involvement is unknown but certainly significant.The army is known to manufacture everything from olive oil and shoe polish to the voting booths used in Egypt’s 2011 parliamentary elections,.....News reports have cited “expert” estimates that are all over the map, from 5 percent to 40 percent or more. ...Not only are army holdings classified as state secrets -- reporting on them can land a journalist in jail -- but they are also too vast and dispersed to estimate with any confidence.
The army some time ago seized power. As this article in the Huffington Post notes:
SCAF boldly and unambiguously asserted sweeping political and military powers: complete control over its own affairs (including control and continued secrecy around the use of over $1 billion in annual military aid from the United States), complete control over its own affairs, including budgetary autonomy as well as the ability to wage war without presidential or parliamentary approval; extraordinary powers of arrest over civilians; immediate assumption of legislative authority; defining and limiting the executive authority of the president; and overseeing the writing of Egypt's new constitution President Morsi was elected without a job description. He is now trying to wrest some power from the military so that he can have some influence in the new Egypt. Certainly it is preferable to being in jail.
With the transition to the new Egypt being controlled by SCAF along with the Muslim Brotherhood it would seem that the revolution and any hope of a transition to a modern secular democracy is unlikely. However, not everyone is pessimistic. Mark LeVine a professor of Middle Eastern History at the University of California Irvine thinks that the situation in Egypt is actually positive for liberals, secularists, and the democratic revolution.
LeVine argues that at least those fighting for a democratic and secular Egypt have not sold out and joined what is in effect the same state apparatus as under Mubarak. He also argues that the Brotherhood in league with the military will not be able to provide a positive future for Egypt. They will fail and the people will turn to the real opposition movement. Now he argues is the opportunity for activists to begin the arduous task of grass roots organizing.
In the long run LeVine may be correct but for the immediate future we are witnessing the army trying to incorporate the Muslim Brotherhood into their power system without yielding much. The presidential election itself tells us that many Egyptians prefer the security of an armed forces based regime as they voted for a representative of the Mubarak in just slightly less numbers than for Morsi the Muslim Brotherhood representative. The revolution may not be dead but it urgently needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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