Egypt elects its president while in crisis (Part 2)
By-Sherif Younis | 25 May 2012
SCAF, the Brotherhood and the presidential elections
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is attempting to rebuild the state’s structures; however, its ambition to maintain its networks is gradually declining following its failure to reproduce the chaos scenario on a level that would lead to a general panic. This is, of course, in addition to the state security system’s loss of all direction, save for the preservation of some of its privileges.
The SCAF’s greatest hope is to achieve a state of political calm under which it can rebuild what is known as the "deep security state."
Using this logic, the SCAF refrained from directly lending its support to any presidential candidate, either because its support would provoke public opinion, or more importantly because it does not wish to expose the military establishment to such a political battle, fearing that this could threaten its organizational structure and its oppressive grip on state affairs.
It appears they have decided to rely on the sum of atrocities they committed over the past year to deter all parties, especially the conservative ones, from engaging in any direct confrontations with the SCAF.
On the other hand, the active, conservative Islamist forces, namely the Muslim Brotherhood, aim at controlling a portion of the state, especially the civilian ministries, and at creating a general climate that would allow it to reveal and use its dormant cells that are embedded within the state apparatus for its reform process.
It also hopes to manage the society and keep it busy with Islamist ideologies through a mixture of services and conservative legislation. As we have seen, the Brotherhood has followed a path that has proven to be inadequate and which has been plagued with internal contradictions within the revolutionary context.
The Brotherhood is betting on the fact that it is the only organized force capable of engaging in the battle to rebuild or reform the state apparatus. However, the Brotherhood has become so preoccupied with its own self admiration and stupid arrogance that it has forgotten that this behavior is an indication that the reform they propose will be utterly sectarian, in other words, suiting no one but the Brotherhood. This fact has succeeded in provoking virtually all parties.
Many see the Brotherhood’s “renaissance” project as nothing more than the foundation of a second “Mamluk” State, that may be more popular than the first modern Mamluk State established by the Free Officers in the 1950s, but which for that very reason is more at risk of being destroyed by the impact of politics.
Furthermore, it appears they have not yet realized that the enormity of the battle that must be fought with the military and security authorities — one that the Brotherhood’s candidate is not up for.
Mohamed Morsy clearly represents this Mamluk option. Not only is he a mere delegate or representative of the organization (mockingly referred to as a spare tire), but he also represents the Brotherhood’s overall post-revolution character. During this period, the Brotherhood has become increasingly conservative and has resorted to reaching agreements with the most archaic powers.
Revolutionary forces and the presidential elections
In the midst of this general political disintegration, or political vacuum, only the Brotherhood was able to field a strong candidate. On the other hand, the relatively strong candidates are independent and do not represent any parties — even Hamdeen Sabbahi does not presents himself as a representative of the ultra-small Nasserist force.
We saw how this logic was rooted within the revolution itself, it being an unorganized network. The revolutionary forces first bet (albeit incompletely and with unending reservations) on Mohamed ElBaradei, as a means to link them with the outdated state institutions with the hope of bringing about change from the top. However, with the failure of this option after ElBaradei’s withdrawal, the only options available to the revolutionary camp are Khaled Ali, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh.
Option one means the formation of a small bloc that refuses the political process as a whole. Voting for Ali is in fact a substitute for boycotting the elections. Those voting for Ali are neither betting on the elections nor the presidency, but rather on the return of the revolutionary state, meaning the public protests.
Therefore, this is the option that will be taken by those opposed to the current political context as a whole, and in the face of their increased marginalization. Ali’s supporters will pursue the same course as that of the Mubarak regime’s opposition, in other words, dissent through scattered protesting.
This manner of opposing the former regime caused Mubarak’s state to stagger and led to the fall of its head, and Ali’s supporters will repeat this experience with the standing regime. There may be a future for this faction if all other methods of political change fail.
The second option of supporting Sabbahi is an attempt to form an effective minority bloc by assembling the civilian forces together to form a force opposed to the Islamist camp that can impose itself on the political scene.
However, this coalition lacks a goal that extends beyond the attempt to build such a non-Islamist civilian bloc. Rallying around Sabbahi as a head of the civilian bloc will ensure the existence of this democratic secular cluster, but it will continue to be unorganized and unwelcome by the conservative forces.
The third option of rallying around Abouel Fotouh is an attempt to unite all forces opposed to the former regime in a manner that disregards the secular-Islamic division. This is especially important to battle the presence of an official candidate fielded by the Brotherhood, the main Islamist force. This was the logic by which the Salafi leaders remarkably supported Abouel Fotouh, bypassing this Islamist-secular division that always played out in favor of the SCAF.
In this sense, Abouel Fotouh is a consensus candidate, not between the secularists and the old state as in ElBaradei’s case, but between segments of secularists and Islamists.
The civilian bloc will continue to be divided among the three options. Many of those who initially supported ElBaradei will particularly reject the third option, Abouel Fotouh, as ElBardei’s actions were based on forming an alliance between remnants of the former regime and secularists.
As for those who joined the ElBaradei movement under the pretext of him being a revolutionary, and who have gradually lost confidence in him, they are more likely to choose between Sabbahi and Abouel Fotouh, depending on how much they fear the Muslim camp as a whole.
In any case, holding the reins of power following the elections will not mean the end of our problems with the former regime nor that the revolution is over. The transition will begin after the presidential elections, when the main battles will be fought in order to rebuild the state apparatus and to regulate and change the laws.
The presidency will be nothing more than one stage in the context of the revolution. All current presidential options revolve around projects concerned with rebuilding the state, either through extensive reforms (Abouel Fotouh); limited, sectarian and organizational reforms (Morsy); minimum reforms (Amr Moussa); and there is also the option that would abort the revolution (Ahmed Shafiq).
If all parties and projects fail, a Bonapartean option of sorts may appear on the horizon within a few years. However, even if there is consensus on this Bonapartean option derived from a general feeling of exhaustion by all parties, the state apparatus, which is worn-out, could hardly serve as a basis for such a project.