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The Military Coup in Egypt: Requiem for a Revolution That Never Was July 26, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Egypt, Imperialism, Revolution.
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by Ajamu Baraka

 

In the two-and-a-half years between the ouster of Mubarak by the Egyptian military and the ouster of President Morsi by that same military, no revolutionary process occurred. Yet, “the emotional response to seeing hundreds of thousands of people on the streets seems to have created a case of temporary insanity,” an imagined revolution in which the “military and the people are one.”

 

 

 

 

by Ajamu Baraka

 

Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” – Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

 

As the military in Egypt consolidates its putsch against the leadership and political structures of the Muslim Brotherhood, it should be obvious that the initial narrative rationalizing intervention by the military as a necessary corrective to a “revolutionary process” has lost all credibility. Yet many liberals and radicals appear united in a fanciful reading of the events in Egypt that not only legitimizes the coup but characterizes the collection of small-minded state-capitalists thugs who make up the top officer corps of the military as part of the people and the revolutionary process.

 

From bourgeois intellectual hacks like Isabel Coleman to venerable Marxist materialists like Samir Amin, who implied that the Egyptian army was a neutral class force, the emotional response to seeing hundreds of thousands of people on the streets seems to have created a case of temporary insanity, or as Frantz Fanon refers to it as – cognitive dissonance. This can be the only explanation for the theoretical and rhetorical acrobatics many are engaged in to reconcile their beliefs in democratic rights and revolutionary transformation with what is occurring right before their eyes in Egypt.

 

A revolution in name only

 

The popular use and acceptance of the term revolution to describe the events in Egypt over the last two years demonstrates the effectiveness of global liberal discourse to “de-radicalize,” with the collusion of some radicals, even the term “revolution.”

 

Eschewing the romanticism associated with revolution and the sentimentality connected to seeing the “masses in motion,” it has to be concluded that between February 2011, when Mubarak was ousted, and July 3, 2013, when the military officially reassumed power, there was no revolutionary process at all, in the sense that there was no transfer of power away from the class forces that dominated Egyptian society. No restructuring of the state; no new democratic institutions and structures created to represent the will and interests of the new progressive social bloc of students, workers, farmers, women’s organizations etc.; and no deep social transformation. In fact, the rapes and sexual assaults that occurred during the recent mobilizations were a graphic reminder that sexist and patriarchal ideas still ruled, untouched by this so-called revolutionary process.

 

A revolutionary process is a process by which structures of power are created by a broad mass of people that allow them to eventually transform every aspect of their society – from the structure and role of the State and the organization of the economy to inter-personal relations – all with a view to eliminating all forms of oppression. There were some important organizational advances made by some elements of the labor movement in Egypt, including the creation of independent trade unions. However, the organizational imperative for revolutionary change that requires the building of popular structures to sustain mass struggle and represent dual power, was not as strong as it should have been in Egypt.

 

The liberal appropriation of the term ‘revolution’ to describe everything from the events in Libya and Syria to the Green movement in Iran not only distorts social reality but also advances a dangerous narrative.”

 

Early 2011 in Egypt saw mass agitation for social change and a mass rebellion against a dictatorship that galvanized previously disparate social forces and classes – Westernized secular liberals, labor rights activists, radical students, women’s rights activists and Islamic fundamentalists – into one oppositional social bloc. The initial demand was for the end of the Mubarak dictatorship and the creation of a democratic system that respected democratic rights – the essential component of an authentic national democratic revolutionary process. However, the maturation of this process was arrested due to three factors: (i) the seizure of power by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) on February 11, (ii) the channeling of mass dissent primarily into the electoral process, and (iii) the failure of the oppositional forces to organize sustainable mass structures to safeguard and consolidate the developing revolutionary situation.

 

The concern with characterizing the nature of mass struggle in Egypt and in Tunisia that eventually was branded as the “Arab spring,” is not driven by a desire for some kind of neat, categorical purity that abstracts complex social phenomenon from its historical context. But instead the concern is the need to differentiate politically and programmatically the specific political challenges and tasks between an insurrectionary phase of struggle and one that has entered a pre-revolutionary or revolutionary phase.

 

This is important because the liberal appropriation of the term “revolution” to describe everything from the events in Libya and Syria to the Green movement in Iran not only distorts social reality but also advances a dangerous narrative. That narrative suggests that revolutionary change takes place as a result of spectacle. It devalues organizing and building structures from the bottom up as unnecessary because it is the theater that is important; the episodic show; the display that refutes Gil Scott Heron’s admonition that “the revolution will not be televised!”

 

The perverted logic of this approach is reflected in both the failure of the opposition to organize itself beyond the spontaneous mobilizations of 2011 and the knowledge of Morsi’s opponents, the Tamarod – thanks to signals from their patrons in the U.S. – that if they demonstrated significant street opposition to President Morsi the U.S. would have the cover to support intervention by the military.

 

The military’s pre-emptive strike against revolution

 

To have a clearer view of the current situation in Egypt, we must debunk the nonsensical, a-historical gibberish that suggests that the Egyptian military is a neutral, grand mediator of contending social and political forces, and stepped into the political scene in January 2011 and again July 2nd as a national patriotic force allied with the interests of the “people.”

 

The reality is that what we have witnessed in Egypt is a lateral transfer of power, in class terms, from the civilians in the Mubarak government, representing capitalist interests tied to the State, to the military, which has similar economic interests, with their enterprises and retired officer corps populating companies connected to the State sector. In fact, under President Morsi, the military never really went away. It maintained an independent space in the Egyptian state and economy. Critical ministerial positions in the Morsi cabinet, such as the Interior Ministry, Defense and Suez Canal Authority, were given to individuals associated with the Mubarak regime that were allied with the military. And the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, populated by Mubarak-era appointees, was the main instrument used by the military to limit and control any efforts to restructure the state or expand Morsi’s power.

 

For U.S. policy-makers, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Morsi government were never seen as an alternative to Hosni Mubarak. Despite the repression meted out to members of the Muslim Brotherhood by the Mubarak regime, it was well understood that the Brotherhood was part of the Egyptian economic elite and open to doing business with the West. Therefore, Morsi was seen as an acceptable and safe civilian face to replace Mubarak while the U.S. continued its influence behind the scenes through the military.

 

We must debunk the nonsensical, a-historical gibberish that suggests that the Egyptian military is a neutral, grand mediator of contending social and political forces.”

 

Both the U.S. government and the Egyptian military had objective interests in making sure that the power of the Morsi Presidency remained more symbolic than real. The military, working through the Constitutional Court and the bureaucracy, made sure that President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood only had nominal control of the State. Morsi did not control the intelligence or security apparatus, the police, the diplomatic corps, or the bureaucracy, which was still staffed with Mubarak holdovers.

 

In fact, one of the major sources of tension between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood was the threat – and real moves – made by the Morsi government to use their nominal state power to curtail the economic activity of the military, which holds interests controlling anything from 15 to 40 percent of the economy, in favor of the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood itself, representing sectors of the competitive capitalist class.

 

One way of looking at the assault on the Muslim Brotherhood is that it was nothing more than a militarized solution to an intra-bourgeois class struggle within the context of Egyptian society, and had nothing to do with the interests of the fragmented and institutionally-weak opposition.

 

So the idea that the military, as a neutral force, allied itself with “the people” and only stepped in to resolve a political crisis is nothing more than a petit-bourgeois fantasy.

 

The class-based, social and economic interests of the military mean that it will oppose any fundamental transformation of the Egyptian economy and society, the ostensible aim of the “revolution.” Significantly, this means that the power of the military is going to have to be broken if there is to be any prospect of revolutionary change in Egypt.

 

A National Democratic Revolution: One step forward, three steps back

 

This analysis, however, should not be read to suggest that the people were just bit-players in a drama directed by powers they had no control over. The mass rebellion in Egypt created a crisis of governance for the corrupt elite that were in power and their U.S. patron. The demand for the end of the dictatorship was an awesome demonstration of people-power that created the potential for revolutionary change. The problem was that the dictatorship had severely undermined the ability of alternative popular forces to develop and acquire the political experience and institutional foundations that would have positioned them to better push for progressive change and curtail the power of the military. Unfortunately for Egypt, the force that had the longest experience in political opposition and organizational development was the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

The call by a sector of the “people” for the Morsi government to step down was a legitimate demand that expressed the position of a portion of the population that was dissatisfied with the policies and direction of the country. Yet, when the Egyptian military – a military that has not demonstrated any propensity for supporting democratic reforms – intimated that it would step in, the mass position should have been “no to military intervention, change only by democratic means” – a position that a more mature and authentically independent movement might have assumed if it was not being manipulated by powerful elite forces internally and externally.

 

The mass position should have been ‘no to military intervention, change only by democratic means.’”

 

It was wishful thinking that bordered on the psychotic for liberal and radical forces in the country and their allies outside to believe that a democratic process could be developed that reflected the interests of the broad sectors of Egyptian society while disenfranchising the Muslim Brotherhood, a social force that many conservatively suggest still commands the support of at least a third of the Egyptian population, and is the largest political organization in the country. Liberals and some radicals that supported the coup did not understand that the construction of the “people” is a social/historical process that requires both struggle and engagement. Not understanding this basic principle has resulted in the killing of the national democratic revolution in its infancy.

 

The powerful national elites that bankrolled the anti-Morsi campaign and their external allies, including Saudi Arabia and the U.S., have successfully set in motion a counter-revolutionary process that will fragment the opposition and marginalize any radical elements. The Egyptian elite understood much more clearly than the Tamarod or the National Salvation Front that a revolutionary process would entail the development of a political program that has as its objectives the subordination of the military to the people, the public appropriation of state capitalist sector and the rejection of neoliberal capitalist development. Because of that understanding, they moved with textbook precision over the last year and a half to protect their interests.

 

Sadly, the liberal and radical collusion with the anti-democratic forces of the Egyptian military and economic elite has provided legitimacy for the same retrograde forces that dominated Egyptian society under Mubarak to continue that domination, but this time in the name of “revolution.”

 

Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist and veteran of the Black Liberation Movement. He is currently a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Baraka can be reached at www. Ajamubaraka.com.

Egyptian coup apologists offer lame rationalizations July 11, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Egypt, Foreign Policy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: I have not previously posted anything on the recent events in Egypt, mostly because I haven’t been able to figure out what is really going on. 

“Politics makes for strange bedfellows but this takes the cake — secularists and fundamentalists, liberals and autocrats, pious and the corrupt, the Copts and their historic tormentors.”

The only thing that is clear to me is that the Egyptian masses, who overthrew Mubarak and demonstrated even more massively against Morsi, are not being represented or served by either the generals or the Islamic political parties.  I have a great deal of respect for the Star’s Haroon Siddiqui, and this article seems to undermine most of the pro-coup analysis that I have been reading.

 

Opinion / Commentary

Egypt’s Mohammed Morsi was incompetent and made grave mistakes, but the military coup is a far greater crime.

Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood shout slogans in favour of Egypt's deposed president Mohammed Morsi in Cairo on July 10, 2013.

MAHMUD HAMS / AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood shout slogans in favour of Egypt’s deposed president Mohammed Morsi in Cairo on July 10, 2013.

Two sets of unholy alliances are rationalizing the Egyptian military coup — one domestic, the other foreign.

The latter are led by Barack Obama. He has the quiet backing of Canada and the European Union, and the unapologetic support of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The oil sheikhs have pledged $12 billion — a bigger package than what the International Monetary Fund had been dithering over for months with the now ousted Mohammed Morsi.

Obama, who for 18 months has acted helpless to stop the slaughter in Syria, has not lifted a finger at the Egyptian coup and the army’s slaughter of at least 55 protesters, 51 of them at close range Monday. His pretence has been that he’s not taking sides in an internal civil war. In fact, he is. He has been coordinating with the Gulf autocrats, funding anti-Morsi forces and he is continuing America’s annual $1.3-billion largesse to the Egyptian army.

The aid has been flowing since 1979 to safeguard the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. But that treaty hasn’t been in danger in years. Even Morsi strongly backed it, indeed brokered a ceasefire in Gaza in November between Israel and Hamas. American dollars have only aided and abetted the Egyptian generals’ power and perks. The tear gas and the ammunition they have shot at the civilians may have been American.

Yet the White House is lobbying Congress to keep the cheques and military supplies coming, after Republican Senator John McCain, a powerful member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, demanded a cut-off “because the Egyptian military has overturned the vote of the people. We cannot repeat the same mistakes that we made in other times of our history by supporting removal of freely elected governments.”

The African Union, long infamous for standing by fellow leaders no matter how evil, has swiftly suspended Egypt, making it only the fourth country after Madagascar, the Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau and Mali to be so sanctioned.

Inside Egypt, the coup has been backed by disenchanted youth, discredited functionaries and crony capitalists of the despotic administration of Hosni Mubarak, the Coptic Church and the arch-conservative Islamists known as Salafists, belonging to the Al Nour party, a rival of Morsi’s moderate Muslim Brotherhood.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows but this takes the cake — secularists and fundamentalists, liberals and autocrats, pious and the corrupt, the Copts and their historic tormentors.

It is the Salafists who’ll likely benefit the most in the long run — just as did Hamas (initially encouraged by Israel), the Taliban (mollycoddled by Pakistan) and India’s Sikh militant separatists in the 1980s (encouraged by Indira Gandhi, whom they ended up assassinating).

Apologists for the Egyptian coup, including many Egyptian Canadians, are offering lame rationalizations:

  • The situation was chaotic and the economy in ruins — someone had to restore order. That’s the standard excuse for military coups. Besides, the army itself encouraged the undermining of Morsi by Mubarak-era courts, Mubarak-era police and Mubarak-era financiers who backed mass demonstrations. They created the upheavals that killed tourism and stifled the economy.

Morsi only controlled the parliament where his Muslim Brotherhood had nearly half the seats. But the assembly was dismissed by the courts, leaving him only his own elected legitimacy — and that was what was systematically destroyed.

  • Morsi was partisan and unilateral. He was — but far less so than, say, Stephen Harper and the Republicans in Congress. He appointed no more party loyalists and nincompoops than Harper has to the Senate or other public institutions.
  • Morsi had only a “narrow mandate,” at 52 per cent in a two-way race. But his was a bigger margin than Obama’s. And in multi-party elections, the Brotherhood proportionately won more seats than either Harper’s or David Cameron’s Conservatives.
  • Morsi was taking orders from the Muslim Brotherhood. He no doubt was but no more so than members of the Congress sing their key funders’ tunes.
  • He was advancing sharia or he may have been preparing to do so. In fact, he fought off Salafist demands for constitutional guarantees for Islamic law.

Ironies abound.

Many of those who accused him of being authoritarian were themselves beneficiaries of Mubarak’s authoritarian rule. The same people who skewered him for abrogating too much power through a temporary presidential decree last fall were mute when the courts dismissed the elected assembly. Those who called him undemocratic are applauding the coup. Those who blamed him for rushing the constitution through a parliamentary panel are now confronted with the army’s plan to hand-pick a panel that is to complete the constitutional amendments within the next 15 days.

The army is promising free and fair parliamentary elections in six months, followed by a presidential election. Yet it is keeping Morsi and hundreds of his party members in detention and has issued warrants for dozens more, including the Brotherhood’s top leader It has closed down the Brotherhood headquarters and silenced its media, while anti-Morsi forces have trashed dozens of Brotherhood offices across the country.

The idea is to either disallow the Brotherhood from running in the elections or discredit or destroy it so that it never wins again.

Morsi was incompetent and made grave mistakes. But the coup is a far greater crime. He and the Brotherhood would have self-destructed. By strangling that natural democratic evolution, Egypt is going down a dangerous alley — and with it those who are following its generals.

Haroon Siddiqui’s column appears on Thursday and Sunday. hsiddiqui@thestar.ca

Egypt, women and permanent revolution July 19, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Egypt, Revolution, Women.
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NEWS & LETTERS, July – August 2012

www.newsandletters.org

 

by Terry Moon

Mona Eltahawy, an American-Egyptian journalist, wrote an eloquent essay published in the May/June edition of Foreign Policy titled “Why Do They Hate Us? The real war on women is in the Middle East.” The myriad negative responses to it reveal serious examples of counter-revolution from within the revolution in the wake of Arab Spring.

ARAB SPRING FACES COUNTER-REVOLUTION

Eltahawy takes up “the pulsating heart of misogyny in the Middle East.” It is crucial that her essay is about the need for the revolutions of Arab Spring to continue and deepen. So important is this to her that she begins and ends with that point. On the first page she declares:

“An entire political and economic system–one that treats half of humanity like animals–must be destroyed along with the other more obvious tyrannies choking off the region from its future. Until the rage shifts from the oppressors in our presidential palaces to the oppressors on our streets and in our homes, our revolution has not even begun.”

And on the last page she writes:

“The Arab uprisings may have been sparked by an Arab man–Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in desperation–but they will be finished by Arab women…. Our political revolutions will not succeed unless they are accompanied by revolutions of thought–social, sexual, and cultural revolutions that topple the Mubaraks in our minds as well as our bedrooms.”

Not one of the critiques I read mentions that this is what her essay is about. Rather than speaking to her essay’s content–the unbearable sexism that women experience in the Middle East–they try to discredit her. Where she talks of how “more than 90% of ever-married women in Egypt–including my mother and all but one of her six sisters–have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty,” she is chided for using the “wrong” word, genital mutilation instead of circumcision. Another critic attacks her by reminding the reader that genital mutilation of women did not originate with Islam or in the Middle East. But none speak to the actuality of genital mutilation, under whatever name.

FORM ATTACKED, CONTENT IGNORED

She was also widely criticized for publishing the essay in Foreign Policy, as if that somehow silenced other Arab women’s voices, even though Foreign Policy invited four responses from Arab women. Or, critics say, it was wrong to publish in Foreign Policy because her audience was presumed to be Americans, but no publications or websites the critiques were in would have printed her essay, and it is crystal clear from the responses that her essay was widely read by an Arab audience.

Then there was this age-old shibboleth, used whenever someone wants to shut up a woman who dares to bring up the fact that we live–all of us–in a deeply misogynist world: Eltahaway “blames and hates all men.”

Any who doubt the importance of what Eltahawy raises need only remember the Iranian women who, in the midst of revolution in 1979, came out by the thousands against Khomeini’s order to wear the chador. They cried out: “At the dawn of freedom we have no freedom.” They were calling for the Iranian revolution to continue. Had their demands been taken seriously by the Left, Iran might be in a very different place today.

NEED FOR PERMANENT REVOLUTION

In an interview given several weeks after her essay was published, Eltahawy reiterated that she is talking about deepening revolution:

“So what my essay is trying to do, is to say that the women…now have two revolutions that need to be completed: The revolution against the regime, which oppresses all of us; but also a second revolution against a society that oppresses us as women.”

While Eltahawy is not talking directly of Marx’s concept of revolution in permanence, that is what she is calling for. As Arab Spring faces counter-revolution from within and without–and is now facing an election where both candidates may well worsen women’s oppression–we call for the greatest possible solidarity with what Eltahawy is raising.

In Egypt, a President Without Power June 21, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Egypt, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: we see once again the farce and insufficiency of formal “democracy,” with “democratic” elections.  We see that the real power in any so-called democracy is the military in alliance with the mostly behind-the-scenes corporate oligarchy.  It is not always a blatant as it is in Egypt, but in the country that has always boasted itself as the epitome of “democracy,” we see more and more every day that popular will and popular need and interests are surrendered to the objectives of the Empire and its military industrial complex.  Only a genuine revolution that destroys the iron fist of capitalism will bring genuine freedom and democracy; the Arab Spring revolution was only a first step in this direction, as we see clearly now.  Deposing a dictator is necessary but not sufficient.  There is a long way to go, not only for Egypt, but for every nation on earth.
 
Published on Thursday, June 21, 2012 by The Nation

 

by Sharif Abdel Kouddous

Last week’s presidential elections in Egypt were supposed to mark the final step in what has been an arduous transition from military rule to an elected civilian government. Instead, sixteen months after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising calling for freedom and social justice, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces has assumed near-full control of all of the key branches of state.

 Shafiq (left) or Mursi (right). Either way, turmoil is guaranteed. (Photo: AP)

 M inutes after polls closed Sunday evening in the country’s first-ever competitive presidential election, which pitted the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi against Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak’s last prime minister, the SCAF issued a set of constitutional amendments that strip the incoming president of almost all significant powers and cement military authority over the post-Mubarak era.

The move by the ruling generals came days after the dissolution of the popularly elected parliament by a court packed with Mubarak-appointed judges, as well as a decree by the Minister of Justice reintroducing elements of martial law to the country by granting the military broad powers to arrest and detain civilians.

“Egypt has completed its full transition into a military dictatorship,” wrote Hossam Bahgat, head of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, after the amendments were made public.

The eleventh-hour declaration awards the ruling generals sweeping powers, including the right to issue legislation in the absence of a sitting parliament, and total control over the military’s affairs, shielding the army from any presidential, parliamentary or public oversight. Most prominently, the amendments remove the president’s role as commander-in-chief—with SCAF head Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi assuming that power—effectively transforming the SCAF into a fourth branch of state, constitutionally separate from the executive, legislative and judiciary.

“The provisions really do constitutionalize a military coup,” writes Nathan Brown, an Egypt expert at George Washington University.

The military also tightened its grip over the drafting of Egypt’s new constitution by granting itself an effective veto over any clauses that don’t meet with its approval. It can even go further and directly handpick the 100-member body that will write the constitution. The Constituent Assembly, elected by the Muslim Brotherhood–dominated parliament two days before it was dissolved, faces allegations by secular forces that it is dominated by Islamists who have secured themselves the lion’s share of seats. The new amendments allow the SCAF to dissolve the current body if “encounters an obstacle”—a disturbingly vague condition—and select the Constituent Assembly themselves.

The military council further eroded the authority of the executive with another decree, made public on Monday, to form a seventeen-member National Defense Council, to be chaired by the incoming president, but which will include eleven senior military commanders and will make decisions based on a simply majority vote.

Meanwhile, the head of the SCAF Advisory Council, Sameh Ashour, suggested the winner of the election might only serve on an interim basis, until the new constitution is written. “The newly elected president will occupy the office for a short period of time, whether or not he agrees,” Ashour told Al Jazeera.

Activists and rights campaigners decried the series of moves by the military, which they said render the SCAF’s promise to hand over power by June 30 effectively meaningless. The sentiment was reflected in the front-page headline of the privately owned daily Al-Shorouk the morning after the election: “A president without powers.”

The runoff itself was deeply divisive, marked by heavy negative campaigning by both sides. Shafik, a stalwart of the former regime, campaigned on a law-and-order platform, vowing to use force to crush protesters, while vilifying the Brotherhood and pledging to act as a bulwark against the rise of Islamists in government. Meanwhile, Morsi sought to portray himself as the revolutionary candidate facing off against the remnants of Mubarak’s regime.

Both men were polarizing figures, and their candidacies evoked the binary political landscape that prevailed in Egypt in the decades leading up to the revolution. Enthusiasm among the electorate was clearly low, with many voters saying their choice of candidate was based largely on preventing the other from reaching the presidency.

The Brotherhood has claimed it won the poll, releasing figures that show Morsi with nearly 52 percent of the vote to Shafik’s 48 percent. The results appear to coincide with reports from local media outlets and independent observers. However, the Shafik campaign is vigorously denying their candidate has lost and insists Shafik came out ahead with a tally of 51 percent. Both sides have launched appeals against the conduct of the vote before official results are announced on Thursday, June 21.

The Brotherhood has come out strongly against the constitutional amendments and says it does not recognize the Supreme Constitutional Court’s ruling to dissolve parliament, a decision widely viewed as highly politicized. The army deployed troops outside the parliament on Saturday to prevent MPs from gaining access to the building.

“This is against the people’s will and the SCAF does not have a genuine intention to hand over power,” the Brotherhood said in a statement. On Tuesday, the group helped lead a protest of tens of thousands in Tahrir Square and outside parliament, along with a number of other political forces, including the Salafi Nour party and the April 6 Youth Movement.

Adding to the chaos, that very night, the official state news agency caused a firestorm when it reported that Mubarak had been declared “clinically dead” after suffering a stroke. The former president was transferred from his prison cell where had been held since June 2, after receiving a life sentence on charges of involving the killing protesters in January 2011. Conflicting reports soon emerged that he was in fact stable and on a respirator. Reports of Mubarak’s failing health had frequently appeared in the media ever since charges were brought against him last year and the latest news was treated with widespread criticism in Egypt. The next day, The New York Times reported that his lawyer denied the former president had nearly died, insisting he simply fell down in the prison bathroom.

Meanwhile, the Carter Center, one of three international organizations accredited to witness the election, expressed “grave concern” about the military’s actions. “It is now unclear whether a truly democratic transition remains underway in Egypt,” the group said in a preliminary statement released Tuesday.

In Washington, the reaction was similar from both the State Department and the Pentagon. “We are particularly concerned by decisions that appear to prolong the military’s hold on power,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

US policy towards Egypt has remained unchanged since before the revolution, when Washington backed the Mubarak regime for decades with $1.3 billion in annual military aid. In March, the Obama administration used a national security waiver to bypass new restrictions imposed by Congress that would have made aid to Egypt conditional on certification from the State Department that the SCAF was making progress on the transition to democracy. The move came in the wake of a crisis in which Egyptian authorities raided several NGOs in Cairo, including three funded by the United States, not to mention continued and widespread human rights abuses committed by the military and security forces.

“[The United States] will either have to suspend the aid or be openly in favor of SCAF’s constitutional coup if they continue it,” writes Cairo-based blogger and analyst Issandr El-Amrani. “The time has come: the US may not be able to influence developments in Egypt, but at least it can stop underwriting them.”

The presidential elections mark the third time Egyptians have gone to the polls only to find their votes rendered meaningless. A nationwide referendum on nine amendments to the constitution in March 2011 was supplanted by SCAF a few days later when it unilaterally issued a “Constitutional Declaration” that included over sixty articles. The parliamentary elections last fall were cancelled by this month’s court ruling to dissolve the People’s Assembly. Now, millions have elected a president who was stripped of most of his authority by the SCAF in a last-minute power grab.

If voting has come to mean nothing with the military in charge, the masses that united to oust Mubarak may soon begin to seek other avenues for change.

 
© 2012 The Nation
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