[News] The Regime is Dead, Long Live the Regime! - the Egyptian Counter-Revolution

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 27 12:32:19 EST 2014


January 27, 2014
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/27/chronicling-the-egyptian-counter-revolution/


*The Regime is Dead, Long Live the Regime!*


  Chronicling the Egyptian Counter-Revolution

by MUSA al-GHARBI

To be clear, the Egyptian military does not aspire towards total control 
of the state, with all of the responsibilities entailed thereby---what 
they want, what they have always wanted, is to be beyond accountability 
to the civilian population, to have their budget immune to external 
oversight or reduction, to reserve the right to intercede as they deem 
necessary in the political affairs of the state without any reciprocal 
checks by legislators, and to respond with impunity against those whom 
they deem to be a threat to their social order.

It was in the service of these ends that they deposed Husni Mubarak: a 
maneuver designed to preserve, not change, the status quo 
<http://www.yourmiddleeast.com/columns/article/the-ties-that-bind-obama-to-bush-run-across-the-middle-east_13823>. 
In the aftermath of their first coup they unyieldingly struggled 
<http://www.sismec.org/2012/06/15/a-soft-coup-and-a-small-ballot-box/> 
to limit the civilian government from exerting any meaningful control 
over critical state institutions---efforts which were bolstered by other 
elements of the "deep state 
<http://www.sismec.org/2013/08/21/shallow-democracy-v-deep-state-an-archaeology-of-the-crisis-in-egypt/>" 
with complimentary vested interests in perpetuating the existing 
order---culminating in a second coup 
<http://fiatsophia.org/2013/08/04/an-archaeology-of-the-crisis-in-egypt/> against 
Egypt's first democratically-elected president less than a year into his 
term.

It's been a tumultuous affair, but it appears as though the junta's 
efforts have paid off.

Among the primary grievances of the protestors in Egypt and across the 
MENA region was the corruption and overreach of the military, police, 
and intelligence services. Nonetheless, Egypt's new draft constitution 
renders all of these institutions completely unaccountable to the 
civilian populace or their elected representatives.

Not only does the constitution enshrine the al-Selmi communiqué 
<http://egyptelections.carnegieendowment.org/2011/12/15/the-specter-of-%E2%80%9Cprotected-democracy%E2%80%9D-in-egypt> 
with regards to the military, it also expands many of its key provisions 
<http://carnegieendowment.org/2013/12/04/egypt-s-draft-constitution-rewards-military-and-judiciary/gvc8> 
to the police, judiciary, and religious authorities. It allows all of 
these actors to substantially intervene in the civilian government while 
preventing said government from interfering in these institutions.  In 
this vein, it establishes the indefinite power of the military to arrest 
and try civilians while rendering not only the military, but also the 
police, immune to civilian prosecution.

Of course, one of the key aspirations of the coalition who rallied to 
overthrow Mursi was to establish Egypt as a secular state---these 
protestors will find their aspirations dashed as well (perhaps rightly 
so <http://fiatsophia.org/2013/02/27/liberals-v-democrats-egypt/>):

Sure, the draft does include provisions which prohibit the participation 
of political parties "formed on the basis of religion"---an article 
which will certainly be used as the legal pretext to abolish the Freedom 
and Justice Party 
<http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/08/2013817125725348916.html> 
and any other political force with perceived organizational or 
ideological ties to the Muslim Brotherhood; even in the absence of this 
legal framework, the Brothers have been persecuted relentlessly 
<http://fiatsophia.org/2013/08/04/an-archaeology-of-the-crisis-in-egypt/> since 
the coup which removed Muhammad Mursi (contrary to the rhetoric, the 
Brotherhood remains popular: after all, if few Egyptians supported them 
there would be little need to exclude the Brothers from elections--they 
would fail on their own. They are being banned, not because the people 
hate them, but on the contrary, because so many continue to support them).

However, considering the vast sums of aid (already in excess of $16 
billion 
<http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21591213-junta-presents-new-constitution-could-it-be-any-more-baffling>) 
being poured into the country by Saudi Arabia in order to stave-off 
Egypt's imminent collapse (and therefore, an authentic revolution), we 
can expect that the salafi al-Nour party will be mysteriously exempt 
from this new provision. Clearly, this is their understanding as 
well, as they have unequivocally endorsed 
<http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/05/us-egypt-politics-nour-idUSBRE9B40HH20131205> 
the draft constitution, just as they endorsed the coup 
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/07/egypt-salafist-al-nour-party>---shrewdly 
angling for greater influence 
<http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/06/al-nour-salafis-muslim-brotherhood-june-30-egypt.html> 
for themselves and their Saudi benefactors 
<http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/07/saudi-arabia-glad-to-see-morsi-go.html>. 
The army, for its part, is trying to lure the Islamists 
<http://www.forbes.com/sites/dougbandow/2014/01/20/pharaoh-al-sisi-takes-control-in-egypt-obama-administration-sacrifices-security-human-rights-and-democracy/> 
to their side in a bid to alienate the Brotherhood.

That is, the laws are not about establishing Egypt as a secular state 
<http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/139605/robert-springborg/sisis-islamist-agenda-for-egypt?page=show>---instead, 
they are designed to exclude particular influential political forces 
from the public sphere; consider:

The new military constitution also declares the sharia as the foundation 
of all of Egypt's law. While the language assigning the responsibility 
of interpreting these laws to al-Azhar has been removed, considering 
that al-Azhar is THE center for Islamic jurisprudence in Egypt 
<http://carnegieendowment.org/2013/11/07/egypt-s-al-azhar-steps-forward/gt0b> 
(and for much of the Sunni world), this redaction is little more than 
cosmetic. In fact, the religious authorities have played a central role 
in legitimizing 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/26/world/middleeast/egypt.html?_r=0> the 
coup and subsequent crackdown--as a reward, the  new draft actually 
places al-Azhar's leadership beyond the sphere of civilian 
accountability as well and permits only those imams with credentials 
from al-Azhar 
<http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/10/egypt-authorities-restrictions-mosque-activity.html> 
to preach, granting them a virtual monopoly over Egypt's primary 
religion.  They could never have dreamed of such influence under Mursi.

Simultaneously, the constitution restricts the right to worship 
/exclusively/ to the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity 
and Islam. Even some from among these religions may be excluded on the 
basis that they are not "proper 
<http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/13224/interior-ministry-reinstates-department-to-monitor>" 
Muslims, Christians, etc.--in fact, these efforts are already 
well-underway 
<http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/sep/11/egypt-bans-55k-mosque-preachers-crackdown-islamist/>.

Of course, many Egyptians opposed the coup and have been unyielding in 
their opposition <http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=31454>. 
  Others who supported the coup under the naïve assumption that the 
military would step back and meaningfully empower a liberal, secular, 
civilian government have come to see (perhaps, too late) that the SCAF 
has never shared their values and aspirations 
<http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2013/07/11/3800817.htm>. Most 
of the Egyptian public was against the coup 
<http://www.microsofttranslator.com/bv.aspx?from=&to=en&a=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ecmeg.com%2F%3Fp%3D50> 
at the time it was carried out, and despite a temporary surge in popular 
support for the military in the aftermath, most seem to be returning to 
their initial conviction 
<http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-26/most-egyptians-oppose-ouster-of-mursi-poll-shows.html> 
that it was a mistake to depose Mursi.

Nonetheless, given the public's general fatigue 
<http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/96c19b1e-dfe8-11e2-9de6-00144feab7de.html#axzz2mvPmnvGU> 
with social unrest, the near-total lack of external oversight over the 
Egyptian government, and the ruthless crackdown on dissent within 
Egypt---one way or another 
<http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/1/14/egypt-constitution.html>, 
it was assured that the referendum would pass with impressive numbers. 
And by this time next year a new civilian government will likely be elected.

The fact that these officials will have little control over critical 
state institutions even as said institutions wield undue influence over 
the government, that the social and economic injustices which motivated 
the uprising will not only persist but will be written into the state's 
founding document, that the rights and freedoms the protestors sought 
will not have been meaningfully achieved, that the oft-maligned 
<http://fiatsophia.org/2013/11/01/implications-of-americas-evitable-decline/> 
influence of the United States is being traded for a more ominous and 
far-reaching role for the anti-democratic "Club of Kings 
<http://fiatsophia.org/2012/12/17/the-arab-springs-third-wave/>"---the 
new constitution conveniently papers-over these concerns.

*The Results Are In...*

The interim government has just announced that the results 
<https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/africa/9310-egypts-military-installed-government-announces-98-approval-of-new-constitution> 
of the referendum: 38.6% of eligible voters went to the polls, with 98% 
voting in favor of the measure. We can set aside concerns that these 
sort of victory margins (2% dissent opposed) evoke the "elections" which 
dictators frequently hold to put up a façade of legitimacy, especially 
given the total lack of external oversight over any part of the process 
and the well-documented suppression 
<http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/1/14/egypt-constitution.html> of 
any campaigns opposing the measure--there is another disturbing paradox 
which presents this from being a "ringing endorsement" of the coup, 
namely the low voter turnout.

When the "Islamist" constitution was approved in a referendum in which a 
similar portion 
<http://fiatsophia.org/2013/02/27/liberals-v-democrats-egypt/> of the 
electorate (32.9%) turned out to vote, the opposition decried the poll 
as illegitimate: the overwhelming support by those who turned out to 
vote may not reflect the will of the silent (2/3) majority who did not. 
Somehow these concerns have mysteriously vanished now that the shoe is 
on the other foot.

Of course, as I have argued elsewhere 
<http://fiatsophia.org/2013/06/20/rejoinder-to-a-tyranny-of-the-half-protests-democracy-and-the-ethos-of-pluralism-in-turkey/>, 
it is impossible to infer much from uncast ballots /precisely because 
they were not cast/. That said, there seems to be greater empirical 
support 
<http://fiatsophia.org/2013/08/04/an-archaeology-of-the-crisis-in-egypt/> to 
suggest that a plurality of public opinion is likely against the draft, 
if one was into those sorts of divinations.

Insofar as we take the numbers at their face value, the one thing the 
results suggest (both the overwhelming support for the measure among 
those who turned out, and the low overall turnout) is that the Egyptian 
public remains deeply polarized--accordingly, it is likely the 
referendum will exacerbate, rather than mitigate, the political crisis 
in Egypt. Perhaps, then, it is fortunate that the new constitution 
renders elections largely superfluous, henceforth. All that is left is 
for Gen. al-Sisi to "run 
<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/10514821/General-Sisi-dreamed-he-would-rule-Egypt.html>" 
for president, and the Egyptian counterrevolution will be complete.

/*Musa al-Gharbi* is a Research Fellow with the Southwest Initiative for 
the Study of Middle East Conflicts (//SISMEC/ 
<http://www.sismec.org/about>/). He has a M.A. in philosophy from the 
University of Arizona. You can follow him on Twitter @Musa_alGharbi./

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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