A Blog on Middle East Transformation
Most Egyptians hailed Egypt’s first democratic elections after decades of authoritarian rule. Yet, many artists, filmmakers, actors, writers, and musicians are not pleased that the vote tallies gave Islamists a majority in parliament (its lower house since dissolved by a Supreme Constitutional Court verdict based on a technicality), and more recently the presidency.
In a Q&A, Marina Ottaway analyzes the elections and Egypt’s fragile transition and says that the latest outbreak of violence makes the elections both imperative and difficult. The most challenging part of the change to civilian government in Egypt lies ahead—the road to democracy is far from guaranteed.
In an unexpected move, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati has committed $33 million (Lebanon’s total contribution) for the United Nations’ Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) established to investigate the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Following prolonged stalemate over funding that threatened to bring down his government, Mikati’s decision comes as a harbinger to the turning political tide in Lebanon.
How a Failure to Lead Brought Down the Leader.
If any foreign power asked about the legitimacy, the efficacy, and the consequences of its military involvement in other countries before actually launching such militarism, it might be possible to minimize the negative consequences that we have experienced in the Middle East in recent decades.
Readers of my column will have realized by now that I am impressed by survey research, especially when recurring surveys of the same population provide accurate insights into people’s core values, along with analyses of their views on the political issues of the day.
With Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi taking the oath of the high office, the political party of the once-illegal Muslim Brotherhood officially reigns. But the Supreme Council of the Armed Forced (SCAF), an inseparable lever of Egyptian state autocracy, is still very much in charge.
Turkish-Syrian relations reached a new low after Syria downed a Turkish F-4 jet flying in international air space. Turkey changed its stance toward Syria dramatically, concluding that the incident was an intentional hostile attack and would be dealt with accordingly.
Mohammed Morsi’s victory over Ahmed Shafik in the Egyptian presidential election is a political triumph for the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned organization for most of the years since the country became a republic in 1953. It is likewise an important victory for Egyptian and Middle East democracy. Having edged perilously close to the brink of political chaos in recent weeks, due to repeated bungling of the transition process, Egypt has taken a very significant stride forward.
The ongoing political developments in Syria and Egypt are important for many things, including democratic transitions, popular sovereignty, the rule of law, the quest for social justice and others. One issue, however, that has been highlighted in these two countries has been perhaps the central political dynamic of the modern Arab since its creation after World War One. This is the struggle between military officers and civilian politicians for control of the institutions of government.
The developments in Egypt over the past few days have thrown what had been a confused set of institutional arrangements into even greater disarray. The Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) declared the parliamentary elections unconstitutional, and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) announced a supplementary constitutional declaration with no apparent public input. On top of that, the first presidential election since the fall of Mubarak was held.
The power grab in the past week by the Egyptian military and lingering Hosni Mubarak-era establishment, operating through the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), is such a blatant attempt to prevent a truly democratic and republican system of government from taking root in the country that it cannot possibly succeed. It will generate tremendous counter forces in society from tens of millions of ordinary and politicized Egyptians, who insist on achieving the promise of the January 2011 revolution that toppled Mubarak, and ushered in a slow transition to a more democratic system of governance.
The Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court’s decision Thursday to dissolve the elected parliament and allow former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik to contest the presidential election this weekend will generate heated debate — but essentially the decisions strike me as new building blocks in the complex and erratic process that has been underway in Egypt for the past 17 months: the slow, steady reconfiguration and relegitimization of a rotten political system. Despite some turbulence ahead, this is a healthy development, for several reasons.
On Thursday, Egyptian politicians did something astonishing: they reached an agreement. A military ultimatum—agree within 48 hours on a formula for choosing the 100 people who will write the country’s next constitution, or expect a fresh constitutional declaration, the contents of which you may dislike—ended a long impasse. But the outcome sadly reinforces the narrative that only the military can press self-serving civilian politicians to fulfill their duties to the nation. More importantly, the “thirteenth-hour” agreement (the politicians actually missed the deadline) nonetheless throws Egypt’s already contorted transition deeper into confusion and uncertainty.
The conviction and life imprisonment sentences handed down Saturday to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and former Interior Minister Habib Adli mark a profound but still imprecise turning point in the single most important battle that has defined the Arab world for the last two generations, and the last 60 years of uninterrupted military rule in Egypt: the contest between whether the Arab people will be ruled by democratically legitimate civilian authorities or by self-imposed and self-perpetuating military rulers.
Let’s do the math.
According to the preliminary results of Egypt’s presidential poll, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) candidate Mohammed Morsi picked up 5,578,760 votes, around 25 percent, followed by Mubarak-era minister and PM Ahmed Shafik with 5,333,84, 24 percent. In a surprise showing, Nasserist Hamdeen Sabahi was next with 4,670,939 votes, 21 percent. Trailing were two former leading candidates, ex-Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh with 3,919,727, 18 percent, and in a distant fifth place, » Read more about: How Egypt’s Islamists Lost the First Round »
Egyptians headed to the polls this week not knowing who will emerge victorious at the ballot box. Gone are the grim certainties that once defined Egyptian political life. But while this first post-revolution presidential election is competitive, it is not fully free and fair.
Many historic things have happened across the Arab world since December 2010, when Mohammad Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Sidi Bouzid town in rural Tunisia sparked the uprisings and home-grown regime changes that continue to define much of the region. To my mind, the single most profound event to date was the Egyptian presidential election that took place last Wednesday and Thursday.
Egypt has come a long way since the January 25 revolution. The country that once upon a time quietly anticipated the handover of power from Hosni Mubarak to his son Gamal is now choosing between 13 candidates to become the next president of Egypt.