Egypt’s Political Trench Warfare

Most of Europe lately has been preoccupied with happenings in Spain and in Greece. In the meantime, however, there have been ominous developments in Egypt, where not only has the second round of the presidential election been concluded (official results have yet to be announced), but where the existing legislature has been dissolved by the High Constitutional Court – an action doubly strange due to Egypt not really having any constitution, other than that under which the deposed Hosni Mubarak ruled for all those decades.

What does it all mean? The French daily Libération tries to provide an answer:

Egypte : «Une bataille de tranchées entre l’armée et les Frères musulmans»



This piece is essentially a brief interview, by writer Cordélia Bonal, of Egypt expert Tewfik Aclimandos of the Collège de France. Some highlights:

  • The Egyptian military might have moved too soon. It can be presumed that they were behind the Constitutional Court’s ruling, with the motivation of preventing a situation in which the Muslim Brotherhood would dominate the legislature and the presidency at the same time. Yet the presidency has not necessarily fallen within their grasp; the military/old regime candidate for the position, Ahmad Shafiq, seems to have done very well in the second round and might even have won (despite premature claims of victory by the Brotherhood – anyway, we will soon see).
  • Thus the military might have overreached. In any case, it clearly is not willing to go off quietly into the night. In addition to engineering the dissolution of the legilature, it has explicitly given itself a veto over any future constitution, and it has set up a Council of National Defense, composed (naturally) overwhelmingly of military officials. This organ offers a potential base for future military rule, or at least continued dominance over national politics by officials who were largely in place under Mubarak.
  • Whatever might happen, Egypt finds itself in a difficult situation, “between two profound authoritarianisms” (i.e. military on one side, Muslim Brotherhood on the other, which currently polls show enjoys only 25% support). That doesn’t mean the revolution is over, “it is still in people’s heads.” There just seems to be a long way still to go.

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