Egypt's Elections: Victim of a Power Struggle?
by ASHRAF RAMELAH
November 29, 2011
In all likelihood, the Egyptian military, which has been successful in igniting warfare in the Cairo streets, pitting Muslim against Christian and inciting Islamists against freedom-fighters, will soon be rewarded with civil war. Exacerbated by pressures from Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi factions while trying to maintain control of the country and hold on to protected interests, Egypt’s military leaders, playing both sides, may very well favor protesters and halt the elections that started on November 28th. Elections which would most likely turn the country over to the Muslim Brotherhood and the strict rule of Islam. This power struggle between Islamic fundamentalists and the all-powerful Egyptian military to gain control of Egypt ignores the will of the people who shed their blood for freedom and human rights during the Lotus uprising earlier this year.
Mubarak’s military loyalists in power today are desperate to endure Egypt’s upheaval and emerge with privileges and material interests intact. Their decision to side with revolutionary protestors from the moment of their first military bulletin announcing this at the outset of the revolution was a statement of their determination to do so. Forgetting the military’s long history of loyalty and indebtedness to the Mubarak regime as well as their connectedness to the ex-President through positions of favor and ownership and control of Egypt’s prime businesses, activists and protestors wrongfully accepted the military’s stance of solidarity and gave them their trust.
When Mubarak installed Omar Suleiman, former head of Egyptian spy and torture services (the Egyptian Secret Service), as his Vice President after three decades of rule without one, and this ploy flopped as his one opportunity to keep his regime in power as he stepped down, Mubarak turned to his loyal military. Although Egypt’s constitution does not allow for military rule in the case of the President’s death or unseating, the interim military council (SCAF) illegitimately received the transfer of power from Mubarak after his forced departure (although Mubarak no longer had the power to transfer) as a last ditch effort to maintain his rule and power, the military having identical interests and intertwining concerns with his own. The military took control in a nation ignoring its own constitution which states that a President must be replaced temporarily with the President of the Parliament and then the President of the Constitutional Court. In spite of the meaningless appointment of Isam Sharaf as First Minister (now replaced by the recycled Kamal al-Ganzur of the Mubarak Regime), the military remains firmly planted.
That being said, three forces vie for power over Egypt. This conflict is comprised of each faction using their position for short-term alignments in order to further their own position, interests, and power to dominant Egyptian politics in the end. Clinging to religious juridical law, the Muslim Brotherhood (banned from Egypt and illegal) rode the people’s revolutionary wave which crashed the Mubarak presidency. This was a dream come true for the Muslim Brotherhood which has sought the collapse of Mubarak in its pursuit to replace the leniency of his government with Islamic fundamentalism. The whole world knows by now that Muslim Brotherhood rule of Egypt would mean a step backward for human rights and democracy and a move forward for Jihad and serious threats to Israel, jeopardizing the entire region.
In the years previous to January’s revolution, the Egyptian military never had a real connection to the people or any history of political engagement. The military found in the Muslim Brotherhood a great ally to achieve their own ends of destroying the revolutionary goal of democracy when the Muslim Brotherhood usurped the direction and took control of the Lotus uprising. Ignoring Egypt’s ban of the illegal Muslim Brotherhood, the military continues to align themselves with them and favor reform of Egypt’s constitution only after the parliamentary election. Everyone knows that a Muslim Brotherhood victory is assured if the election were to be held on November 28 along with securing Article 2 of the constitution, which indicates Shariah law as the source of Egyptian law. Meanwhile the military now seeks its own autonomy and hopes to be above the law and Egypt’s constitution as seen in their current attempt to become a state within the state (in a mid-November military submission to the public entitled, Article for Military to be Above the Constitution, which sparked the second wave of rebellion by protesters).
Like dictators Nasser and Sadat before him, Mubarak was a military man when elected President. Like his predecessors, he filled key positions with appointments of loyalists from Egypt’s military colleges in order to protect and preserve his reign. For a period of six decades from the time Nasser came to power during the coup of 1952, Egyptian military generals have been consistently selected and appointed to high level civilian and government positions by every Egyptian President, such as; government department heads, governorships, mayoral offices, directors of public authorities, and heads of private corporations.
Of the three dictators, Mubarak had been especially notorious for the corrupted practice of pressuring Egyptian private sector businessmen to hire retired colonels to fill key company positions over others more qualified or else face a shutdown. Mubarak appointed the military manMohamed Hussein Tantawi Soliman to be his Minister of Defense and Production in 1991, and the ties between these two men from years of combined interest in building and preserving the power and privilege of the military forces along with their personal fortunes is now revealed within the role and behavior of the Military Council (SCAF) headed by Field Marshall Tantawy.
It is not surprising then that the Egyptian military who now runs a parallel economy within Egypt with ownership or control of most of the construction companies and manufacturing plants is today very wealthy, powerful and deeply invested in maintaining the status quo. Having developed their dynasty over time through the aid and benefit of special favors -- little or no competition, free manpower with military draftees, and tax exempt status -- it is also not surprising that this one fact alone has done great damage to the economy of Egypt and to the cause of freedom.
The Military Council has the might of its army, the Muslim Brotherhood has the persuasive power of religion over the illiterate, naïve and impoverished populous, and the ordinary protestors (both Muslim and Christian) carrying out the revolution wield the collective will for democracy and human rights. Within the country, the ordinary people alone hold the gift of the vision of hope for a free Egypt as they bravely battle the entrenched and institutionalized forces.
Aggressive and determined, the insidious Muslim Brotherhood mocks the sentiments of freedom, justice, and human rights, by their very existence. The army, turning against the people who they were meant to serve and protect, inflicted upon protesters horrific and inhumane acts of violence by their use of tear gas spiked with nerve gas, tanks speeding into people, and bullets aimed at eyeballs -- proving they will stop at no amount of cruelty in order to hold on to power.
As they fight an uphill battle, the revolutionary protestors embody the very soul of Egypt and carry within them the eternal quest for freedom, one which must prevail against the evil that deeply penetrates the land of Egypt.
Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Ashraf Ramelah is founder and president of Voice of the Copts, an international human rights organization, and has appeared on the Israel National Radio Tamar Yonah Show and the Jay Sekulow Live! Radio Show. He is closely watching the developments in Egypt as human rights deteriorate for the non-Muslim minority. He has recently given testimony to the Canadian Parliament on the revolution taking place in Egypt. Please visit VoiceoftheCopts.org to read more.