Free Markets, Free People
Egypt – Remember when the military taking over, dissolving Parliament and suspending the Constitution was a bad thing?
Just sayin’. Because to hear some in this country, that’s the best thing that’s happened since sliced bread. Yes, the euphoria over what is happening in Egypt that has gripped an element of the fairly naïve here in this country has been truly breathtaking to behold.
Don’t get me wrong – I’d like as much as anyone to see “democracy flower” and everyone live happily ever after as true statesmen come to the fore and deliver Egypt from the tyranny of dictators and forever ensure one man, one vote, representative government and government of, for and by the people.
I just don’t live in moon pony land. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen, but it is to say that’s very unlikely to happen.
Well let’s consider the facts concerning this benevolent military takeover. It hasn’t taken over anything. The military has been in defacto charge of the country since Nasser.
Yes, Mubarak is gone. So what? Who replaced him? Omar Suleiman. He’s a product of the military, Egypt’s intelligence chief and named in a 2007 diplomatic cable found in WikiLeaks as Mubarak’s “consigliore”. He’s been in that position in 17 years and has been the main means of the Mubarak regime’s ability to oppress opposition. He’s now serving on the “Armed Forces Supreme Council “.
And speaking of the Armed Forces Supreme Council, others who serve on it are Defense Minister (and Lt. General) Anan and the new Prime Minister (and Air Marshal) Shafiz – both very stalwart supporters of Hosni Mubarak.
This 18 member body has dissolved the Parliament, suspended the constitution and banned labor strikes. And although it has promised elections in 6 months, well, that’s 6 months away, isn’t it? We really have no idea if that Council really means to actually hold the election or will find ruling the state to be much more to their taste than turning it over to the rabble.
The military – of all institutions – played this whole thing very well. It was in charge but it pretended it wasn’t. It took the side of the protesters, nominally, and removed one of its own to be replaced by 18 of its own. What has happened is a very well done defusing of a volatile situation while in reality nothing much has changed in terms of who is in charge of government.
That’s not to say some things aren’t different – for instance, that well-known “secular” organization (according to our chief of intelligence) the Muslim Brotherhood (yup, real secular name there, skippy) is attempting to take advantage of the situation as well and has applied for status as a political party.
And it appears, despite reassurances to the contrary, that the MB is setting itself up to be another in a long line of theocratic parties that use elections (at least once) to legitimize their rule. Read these two paragraphs carefully:
The Brotherhood’s charter calls for creation of an Islamic state in Egypt, and Mubarak’s regime depicted the Brotherhood as aiming to take over the country, launching fierce crackdowns on the group. Some Egyptians remain deeply suspicious of the secretive organization, fearing it will exploit the current turmoil to vault to power.
But others – including the secular, liberal youth activists who launched the anti-Mubarak uprising – say the Brotherhood has to be allowed freedom to compete in a democracy alongside everyone else. Support by young cadres in the Brotherhood was key to the protests’ success, providing manpower and organization, though they never came to form a majority in the wave of demonstrations.
The question is, once it has competed in “a democracy” and won, does it ever plan to compete again? Nothing has changed in the MB’s charter. And having watched other “Islamic states” come into existence, democracy is not one of their foundations – although it would certainly be useful in a peaceful takeover vs. having to do so through violence. Bottom line, though, the end state is the same. See any number of authoritarian regimes (such as Venezuela or Iran) which began with “free and open elections”.
To answer the question on the minds of some reading this, no, I don’t consider myself cynical about this, I instead see my pessimism grounded in observing the experiences of like states and the results that’ve unfortunately resulted. I consider my take to be quite realistic. And that’s a pity as I’d like nothing more than to see a magic flowering of democracy in Egypt.
The irony of course is the same people who said a democracy could never be established in Iraq are now saying democracy is spontaneously establishing itself in Egypt. Of course democracy in Iraq has been established, however tenuously, by the presence of the US military. However, in Egypt, those now ruling the country are from the military. I’d appreciate someone – anyone – pointing out why Egypt, without a US military presence or the presence of any other entity capable of forcing the country down the road to democracy will suddenly become a democracy?
In fact it seems the fox is guarding the hen house in Egypt. There’ll be a lot of busy work in the interim - a new or at least amended constitution (who is going to pass it or debate it with Parliament dissolved? The military council? The people?), the organization of political parties and elections, etc. All the while, I expect the military to quietly consolidate its power over the next 6 months while others are buzzing around doing the busy work that will keep them out of the streets.
Will the military willingly turn over its power to a president elected by the people? If I knew that I could probably make a fortune. Let me just say it like this – if the winner of the election is a candidate that is acceptable to the military (say some military officer from “the club’’), then probably “yes”. Accepting such a candidate would most likely keep the military’s grip on government in place, just with a new (and somewhat more benevolent) face.
If the winner isn’t acceptable to the military (such as a theocrat from the MB – one of the reasons they play this “we’re secular” game is an attempt to head off those sorts of charges.) I expect to hear charges of vote fraud, illegal activities and arrests to ensue, along with a declared “state of emergency” after which the military will retain control and begin the inevitable crack-down on dissent. It will also claim to want to hold new elections at some time in the unspecified future – to keep the West off its back and the people at home.
Not a rosy picture, that’s for sure – and I could be completely wrong. But unfortunately, I just don’t think so.
Call it wisdom – intuition, experience and observation combined to come to a conclusion. And it isn’t necessarily a pretty one.