Egypt comes full circle as revolution founders

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Egypt comes full circle as revolution founders

Post by Winged Isis » Sat Jun 23, 2012 10:51 am

A pretty fair summing-up.....


Egypt comes full circle as revolution founders

June 23, 2012

Rebels who took the generals at their word have played into their hands, writes Paul McGeough.

In Egypt, the race is on to see which obituary will be published first - that for the ailing former president Hosni Mubarak, or one for the democracy that struggles to take root in the barren wastes of what was the ousted dictator's regime.

News flashed around the world on Tuesday that the 84-year-old Mubarak was ''clinically dead''. After serving just 17 days of a life sentence for his role as an accomplice in the police murder of hundreds of demonstrators, it seemed the ousted president was on the verge of a final exit - he was on life support, in a coma after suffering a stroke and a heart attack.

Twenty-four hours later, the patient was breathing unaided and his condition was ''nearly'' stable. This remarkable turnaround coincided with his transfer from the prison in which he used to incarcerate his critics, to the more refined surrounds of a military hospital - sparking a wave of speculation that Mubarak's claimed deterioration was a pretext for his cronies who have seized power in Cairo, to have him spirited out of the country.

Youssri Abdel Razeq, one of Mubarak's lawyers, offered a more sober account of the old man's health - he had fallen over in a prison bathroom, but he was fine after an MRI scan and medicine to remove a blood clot in his neck. By accident or design, the lawyer then fed the rumour mill, explaining that in the past it had been perfectly normal for Mubarak to have foreign medical treatment and he would be open to his client going abroad again "if the doctors recommend that, of course".

In a dramatic week, Mubarak's fate might have been a sideshow. But it served as a parable for the underhandedness of the ruling junta, which, despite outward signs of bumbling, has steered a nation of 80-plus million so far away from the revolutionary promise of democracy that only half of the 50 million who voted in Egypt's first free election last year - for a provisional constitution - bothered to vote in last weekend's critical presidential run-off.

As many as half of those who did vote last weekend ticked the box for Ahmed Shafiq who, as a former air force chief and Mubarak's last prime minister, made no attempt while campaigning to gloss over his plans, if elected, to give them more of what they had - or did not have - under Mubarak. Running against him and with both candidates claiming to have won, was Mohammed Mursi, whose Muslim Brotherhood colleagues have been so erratic since the start of the uprising 16 months ago, that he was able to convince only half of the turnout in a devotedly Muslim country that he was a good prospect.

Mursi was first to claim victory. Just hours after voting closed, the Brotherhood released what it claimed was data from 13,000 polling stations that gave Mursi 13.2 million votes, putting him just a few percentage points ahead of Shafiq on 12.3 million votes. The Shafiq camp claimed a smaller turnout, with their man on 10.85 million and Mursi on 10.5 million, and 2 million votes still to be counted.

The formal result was to be released on Thursday.

But on Wednesday, electoral officials said they were deferring the announcement indefinitely because they were still investigating allegations of electoral fraud by both sides. Against claims by the former US president Jimmy Carter's electoral monitoring agency that his teams were denied free access to the vote, the delay gives rise to suspicions of tampering with the results.

In the face of the mildest international criticism, the Egyptian generals - operating as SCAF or the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces - have become increasingly bold, at all times claiming respect for the democratic process while, at the same time, presiding over the remnants of the Mubarak regime as together they frustrate every aspect of the revolutionary agenda.

And it needs to be said that, naively, the revolutionaries played into their hands.

Too often they took the generals at their word, allowing the junta to dictate the pace and order of events - even absurdly at times, like voting for a provisional constitution before electing a parliament.

And as often is the risk in the exuberance of a new era, too many secular candidates split the non-Islamic vote, which cleared the way for Mursi to have pole position in last weekend's run-off. In the first round of voting, Mursi and Shafiq each polled less than 5 million votes, but about 12 million secular, progressive votes were split among five candidates who were eliminated.

Wednesday's decision to delay announcing an election winner was the perfect bookend to an announcement, seemingly out of the blue on the previous Wednesday, in which the generals said they were reinstating much of the old emergency laws, under which Mubarak's security services imposed the regime's writ - with no regard for the niceties of human rights.

Clearly they were setting the scene for the next day, when the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, each of the judges a crony appointed by Mubarak, made two controversial rulings - they cleared the way for their fellow regime crony Shafiq to stand as a presidential candidate in the run-off vote; and on the basis of claimed electoral irregularities, they declared that a third of the new parliament, controlled by Islamists, had been elected illegally and therefore the whole parliament should be dissolved.

In broad daylight, the junta has been creating the greenfields Middle East site that D*ck Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld dreamt of as American forces marched on Baghdad in 2003 - the generals have knocked down everything and ruled out everything.

As the Royal United Services Institute's Shashank Joshi argued this week, "Egypt might have been Turkey, a flawed but booming Islamist-led democracy, which succeeded in putting its coup-prone military back in the box. Instead, with every passing day of this car-crash transition, Egypt heads further in the direction of Pakistan [where] the army has eviscerated national institutions."

Absolutely straight-faced, the generals again went through the motions of attempting to put a lick of varnish on their conduct, with one of their frontmen insisting that far from staging a slow-burn coup, they were merely putting in place a ''separation of powers''.

By their rearrangement of the furniture of state, the parliament has been sacked; a parliamentary assembly appointed to draft a new constitution has been dismissed and the generals have nominated their own drafting team; and the official result of the presidential election is being suppressed - albeit, that the powers of the new head of state are likely to be marginal to non-existent.

In total contempt for the ways of the democracy they claim endlessly to respect and love, the generals have unilaterally assumed massive powers for themselves. These include an edict, issued within hours of the polls closing late last Sunday, assuming the power to craft their own legislation and giving themselves veto over any aspects of the new constitution that displease them. They have dictated that the new president will not have budgetary or legislative powers; he may not make appointments to the constitutional drafting committee; and all areas of defence, national security and the military's massive and secretive commercial holdings are to be beyond his reach.

In their most audacious nod to where power would lie in what they still allude to as the new Egyptian democracy, the president would be barred from changing the membership of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. It seems the SCAF head, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who served for two decades as Mubarak's defence chief, wants to be commander-in-chief for life.

With the margin between the two presidential candidates so close and the voter turnout so poor, the generals can be expected to defend their power grab on the basis that the people trust neither. And it seems the new president should not get too comfortable in office - the junta adviser Sameh Ashour told al-Jazeera ''the new president will occupy the office for a short period of time - whether or not he agrees".

At a bizarre press conference on Monday, two junta members were wheeled out to argue that it was not their intention to return the country to the control of a military-backed autocracy. Generals Mahmoud Shahin and Mohammed el-Asser repeated their mantra - "trust the armed forces" as often as they rejected invitations to back away from elements of their power grab.

Instead, they promised a national party at the end of this month when, they claimed they would honour their promise to hand over power to Egypt's new president.

In the meantime, they regretted sacking the new parliament, but claimed their hands were tied by the court's decision. However, they acknowledged later that they would be able to shutter the parliament under the powers they had assumed, which they defended as ''restricted''.

Writing online, the director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Hossam Bahgat, argued: "[This] new constitutional declaration completes Egypt's official transformation into a military dictatorship."

Despite its revolutionary rhetoric, it still remains to be seen if the Muslim Brotherhood will stand up to the generals - or do a power-sharing deal with them.

"If we find that SCAF stands firm against us as we try to fulfil the demands of the revolution, we will go back to the streets and escalate things peacefully to the highest possible stage," Fatima Abu Zeid, a researcher for the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, told reporters, without mentioning the Brotherhood's reluctance to get behind the revolution in the early days.

"But now it's very clear that SCAF and other institutions of the state are determined to stand in the way of what we are trying to achieve, and we won't accept this any more - Egypt will not go back to the old regime through any means, legal or illegal."

It remains to be seen how events will play out. Apart from claiming to have won the presidency, the Brotherhood is insisting that the elected parliament is still legal and that its appointed constitutional drafting team is the legal entity that will write the rules for the new Egypt.

The Egyptian commentator Ahdaf Soueif writes as much in contempt of the generals as of the two presidential wannabes. "The revolution will continue because neither the old regime nor the Islamist trend in its current form are going to deliver bread, freedom [or] social justice.

"Neither will validate the sacrifices made by the 1200 young people murdered by the regime, the 8000 maimed. The 16,000 court-martialled. As [last] weekend's spectacle unfold[ed], thousands of young men [were] in military jails, many of them on hunger strike."

As Egyptians absorbed the sacking of the parliament, the Nobel peace laureate and one-time presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei told The Guardian: "We are in a total mess, a confused process that - assuming good intentions - has led us nowhere except the place we were at 18 months ago [before Mubarak fell], but under even more adverse conditions."

There was some irony in an editorial in The Washington Times that argued the generals were treading carefully, because they knew "the Muslim Brotherhood has a friend in the White House [and] they know there is a US election in November that may elevate Republican Mitt Romney, who isn't fixated on ensuring the success of the Muslim Brotherhood".

But given the reaction by the Obama administration so far, the generals have little to fear - the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has given them no more than the odd slap on the wrist, and the White House did sanction a resumption of the $1.5 billion a year drip-feed that the generals so enjoy - despite appeals the funding be kept on hold.

Writing in The New York Times under the heading 'The Betrayal of Egypt's Revolution'', the Cairo journalist Sara Khorshid said: "The military's unwillingness to cede power … has been clear for months. Yet the US has continued to support SCAF … [even as its] twisted roadmap was always intended to suppress the Egyptian people's aspirations by delaying a democratic transition and dragging Egyptians along a path determined by the military.

"Given the military's consistent disregard for basic democratic norms over the past 16 months, [Clinton's] comment last week that 'there can be no going back on the democratic transition called for by the Egyptian people' sounded ridiculous."

While the generals press on with just a tut-tut from Washington, the Brotherhood does not get off as easily. An unnamed former Obama administration official was quoted during the week, arguing that if the Islamists controlled the parliament and the presidency, the ''international community'' would demand commitments on the rights of women; minority rights; open, contested elections; and Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.

But there appears to be fear and a weariness in ordinary Egyptians. All that democracy stuff that was so exciting early last year is now freighted with anxiety about the economy and security, about the trustworthiness of the Islamists and the inability of secular young revolutionaries to sell their message of a truly brave new world.

Who is winning?

The megalomaniacal generals. Last year's uprising was the historical marker at which Egyptians shed their fear of the dictator, but for now at least, they seem to be afraid of themselves.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/egypt-comes ... z1yXbfXp00


Carpe diem! :le:

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Re: Egypt comes full circle as revolution founders

Post by Horus » Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:58 pm

Did you ever think that it would end any differently? :urm:
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Re: Egypt comes full circle as revolution founders

Post by Winged Isis » Sat Jun 23, 2012 11:49 pm

Sadly, no. :(
Carpe diem! :le:

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Re: Egypt comes full circle as revolution founders

Post by LovelyLadyLux » Sun Jun 24, 2012 5:12 am

D'accord......I agree.

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