Egypt has been a military dictatorship in all but name for my entire life. That is its default condition. There never was much hope for the country after Hosni Mubarak was toppled. The army took him out, not the people. The people yearned for liberty from Mubarak, but they did not yearn for liberty as Westerners understand it. Some did, of course, but the majority didn’t. The results of last year’s parliamentary election—where radical Islamist parties beat secular parties by a whopping 2-to-1 margin—made that abundantly clear.
We don’t yet know who the next president is going to be. That’s certainly new. Maybe the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Morsi will go to the palace. Perhaps Ahmed Shafiq, a Mubarak man, will pull it off. It hardly matters much at the end of the day, though, because the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces is now more brazenly in the saddle than ever.
The Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF), the junta led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, decreed that the military should govern its own affairs and effectively gave itself a veto over new legislation and the writing of a new constitution.
Who gets to appoint Egypt's senior officers? Egypt's current senior officers.
Who has the power to declare war? Egypt's senior officers.
Who will the constituent assembly tasked with drafting a new Egyptian constitution answer to? Egypt's senior officers.
Nathan Brown, a leading scholar of Egyptian politics, writes "the supplementary constitutional declaration really does complete the coup in many obvious ways – basically returning martial law (in its more original sense rather than the 'state of emergency' that just expired), making the military unaccountable, and grabbing back oversight of the political system for the military just weeks before the scheduled end of military rule."
This could be read as good news, I guess, for those who wish to see Islamic rule stopped at all costs, but before the anti-Islamists pop the champagne corks, don’t forget that Algeria’s psychotic civil war began when the state voided an election where the Islamists won at the polls. Egypt isn’t prone to civil war the way Lebanon and Iraq are, but I wouldn’t rule it out categorically yet. Either way, what has happened in the last year and a half is a tragedy for those who thought it was springtime in Cairo. Someday perhaps. But not today.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Rashad