Monday, 18 June 2012

Egypt: Equilibrium of Evils

It could not have been more blatant or more predictable: late Sunday evening, as the polls closed and the presidential run off elections projected a win for the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Morsi, the military rulers of Egypt declared a new interim constitution that severely restricted the powers of the president : he would be reduced to greeting heads of state at airports, as one friend put it, along the model of the Indian or Israeli presidents. Thus the ruling generals consolidated the coup d’├ętat they staged on Thursday night- under the thin veneer of ‘court rulings’- that dissolved the Brotherhood-dominated parliament and arrogated to the generals all law-making powers, as well as control over the national budget; power to declare war; the naming of a constitution-drafting assembly; and complete freedom from civilian oversight. Moreover, the simultaneous re-assertion of draconian martial law effectively signaled that dissent would no longer be tolerated.
And so, at the moment when the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had promised to hand over power to civilian authorities, they re-instated a military dictatorship: Mubarak on steroids. Regardless of the two-hour news conference the generals gave today, attempting to soften their message, there is no getting around that stark reality: this is what the revolution has wrought.
The power struggle is not over. No one is satisfied in Egypt today, but many look at the situation as an equilibrium of evils: neither a Muslim Brotherhood sweep of the executive and the legislative, which would have opened the door to an over-reaching Islamist government; or the election of the military-backed Mubarak throw-back, Ahmed Shafiq, which would have legitimized the ruling generals coup d’├ętat. For some, including liberals who disagree on all points with the Brotherhood but cannot stomach rule by military junta, it might even look like a glass half-full. Half-full of a bitter drought, nonetheless.

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