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  Middle East & Africa
Op-Ed Special
Pharaohs Back: Egypt's Hijacked Democracy
Special Contribution
By Prof. Abdelkader Zerougui
American University
Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi

Egypt’s experience with democracy has been hijacked twice. Mohammed Aly’s dynasty showed great signs of modernization during the early 1950s, however the process was interrupted by the coup d’état of the so-called “free officers,” in 1952. The military ruled Egypt under Gamal Abdul Nasser (1956 to 1970), Anwar el-Sadat (19570-1981), and Hosni Mubarak (1981-2011). The “Tahrir Square” Revolution of February 2011, and the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood afterwards was only a temporary setback to the military establishment, which again organized a second coup d’état under Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi on July 3rd, 2013. Is Egypt heading to violence, and when the Middle East culture espouse John Locke’s philosophy of “natural rights” of men?

The Muslim Brotherhood ’s rose to prominence after 80 years in hibernation; after a calculated retreat, the military and their backers are in command again. The old order was never defeated. It continued its maneuvers in the shadows, and orchestrated a come back under the banner of “saving the great nation.” It is very ironic how history repeats itself. In 1952, the military stepped in to “save Egypt,” by making it an iron cage for 60 years, and after a brief civilian rule that last a year, the military used the same fallacies to topple the democratically elected president.

Egypt’s democracy lasted only 370 days. Mohammad Mursi was genuine in bringing change to Egypt; however, the remnants of the old regime continued to hold their grips on the military, the interior and most of the businesses in Egypt. There was a systematic strategy to derail the reforms of the newly elected government. A series of sabotages were devised by the counterrevolutionaries . The president inherited colossal problems from high unemployment, poverty, dwindling foreign reserves, and a long inherited corrupt system that refuses to wither away. The Egyptian revolution was not complete because it failed to bring a swift justice to the political class that was responsible for the ills and mismanagement of the country during the past 60 years. The symbols of Egypt’s malaise remained free, and continued operating aggressively until they toppled the civilian government.

Last week it came to light that the toppling of Mursi’s government was well-planned and financed by Egypt's reactionary bourgeoisie, and regional powers, which saw in Egypt’s democracy a dangerous precedent in the Gulf region. The chronic shortages of basic commodities, the long lines for gas, the absence of police in the streets, and the continuous demonstration organized by the movement “Tamarud” Arabic for rebellion have been all planed by a group of former regime supporters and financed by the Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris. The latter admitted in his recent interviews that he had no regrets in financing, and being part of the downfall of Mursi’s leadership.

The United States expressed its “concern” about the suspension of the constitution, and removal of president Mursi. Later they asked for Mursi's release from jail. However, Barack Obama stopped short from calling it a coup d’état. Removing the democratically elected government is by no means a service to Egypt, and to the cause of the Egyptian people. The Brotherhood television network was removed from the air, followed by a series of arrests of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership.

The Muslim Brotherhood were fought forcefully from the regional countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, and Bahrain since Mursi came to power. Humongous financial and political pressures were put on the new nascent to abort its structures and derail its plans. A media campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood financed by the Sultans of Arabia succeeded in devilizing its leadership. Mursi lost one of its strong backers, Qatar, which handed a rescue package to Egypt of $8 billion. The continuous pressure of the US and its Arab Gulf allies forced Qatar’s new Emir Tamim al –Thani to rethink the backing of his allies in Egypt.

The demise of the Muslim Brotherhood has been greatly welcomed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait who rushed their emissaries to General al-Sissi, and pledged their unconditional support to the new regime. Shortly after, the three Gulf Countries approved a $12 billion package in economic assistance to strengthen the military establishment.

The Egyptian generals have no intention of preparing Egypt for democracy. Cronyism is embedded in the Egyptian institutions, and groups that benefited from Mubarak’s regime during the past 30 years have no intention of taking the backstage. A democratic regime in the Middle East is doomed to fail as the existing oil-rich Arab countries are in full alert to torpedo any future political embryo that can become a full fledged democracy, and broaden representation in the region. These ultra-conservative tribal-states will never allow the emergence of a democracy close to their borders.

There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Egypt’s Pharaohs are back, and their policies of repression will alienate the moderates, and will rejuvenate violent and radical groups. The culture of violence does not seem to die. A new chapter in the history of Egypt is in the making, so far more than 120 civilians have been killed, and the military still resist Thomas Jefferson’ s famous saying that “people are endowed with inalienable natural rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."Nobody is with the concept of substituting a military dictatorship with a religious theocracy. However, the Muslim Brotherhood won the elections fair and square. Egypt's rotten military generals can advance numerous excuses for their coup d'etat, but the fact remains is what they did is unconstitutional.



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Prof. Abdelkader Zerougui is an adjunct professor of sociology at American University in Washington DC, where he received his MA and PhD in sociology. Prof. Zerougui’s writings have appeared on many respected media including the Washington Times and The Seoul Times.

 

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