Thursday, 25 July 2013

Egypt: The General Will is the Will of the General.

General Abdel-Fatah Sisi is trying to exploit his popular role in getting rid of Morsi by calling on protesters to demonstrate a show of strength against both the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorists as though both are necessarily the same and one. That is useful in justifying greater military authority after the terror attack in Mansoura

The reason is that Sisi is no doubt trying to capitalise from the sort of popular revulsion that met the Luxor terrorist attacks of 1997 and forced the Muslim Brotherhood to detach itself from the more radical Islamists who were prepared to use violence.

Essentially, what has happened since 2011 is a power game between the Mubarak era elites and the Muslim Brotherhood. Those in Egypt wanting parliamentary democracy were no more impressed by the Muslim Brotherhood's attempt to control Egypt than they were of the old elites trying to cling on.

Hence Tarek Shalaby, an Egyptian advocate of democratic reform comments,

"We want Morsi to go on trial – but not only him, we want him in a cage with Sisi, Tantawi [Sisi's predecessor as army chief] and Mubarak's men too. The problem is that we're being cornered into thinking we need to support the army in cracking down on the Islamists. But we're against this bipolar situation where we're forced to take sides, one against the other. We're with the revolution – against both Scaf [the supreme council of the armed forces] and the Brotherhood."
Evidently, the opposition to Morsi was divided between a variety of secular democrats, Muslim democrats who are not Islamists, Nasserists, liberal, socialists who wanted to propel the revolution towards a full democratic conclusion.

After all, it must be remembered that the Egyptian Parliament was dissolved after the Supreme Court decided that the Muslim Brotherhood was responsible for electoral irregularities in elections. That happened in June 2012 just two weeks before the presidential elections began.

That only gave Egyptians the choice between Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and a candidate who had been the last prime minister appointed by Mubarak. That was hardly a choice and in the absence of any elected representatives in a constituent assembly it was inevitable that anger would boil over this year.

However, it is arguable whether the uprising in 2011 was, in fact, a revolution in the first place for either the army or Muslim Brotherhood to seek to 'steal' Is the interim government going to be able to agree on a new constitution that satisfies those wanting to complete the movement away from dictatorship ?

In Egypt it seems that democracy is still viewed in majoritarian terms or 'the will of the people' where one party of set of interests can appeal to 'the people' on the street. This shows an unsophisticated view of democracy where the general will can become the will of the general.

The interim government has only until February 2014 to have secured a new constitution that will satisfy Egyptians before general elections but it is difficult to see how it can be easily consented to as legitimate given that Egypt is polarised between those who hold to Islamist democracy and others to liberal democracy.

It is quite possible the old elites and army will attempt what leaders since 1952 have done in Egypt which is to try to offer something to the Islamists by enshrining an certain interpretation of Islam in the constitution and trying to bribe and coopt certain Muslim Brotherhood leaders. It can divide and rule that way.

In reality, apart from social networking and 'people power' in the street nothing much has changed in Egypt since 2011. Only the economy lurching from bad to worse and a brief botched attempt at democracy being hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood and then thrown out by the army to popular acclaim.

The only thing that has changed is that most Egyptians have had a taste of 'people power' and expectations are higher than before without the capacity of any new government to be able to deliver basic economic security. In such a situation the prospect of violence and civil conflict remains.

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