Via Allafrica.com, by Solomon A. Dersso
It was with a great sigh of relief that the announcement of the official results of the presidential elections in Egypt was received both within and outside Egypt. On Sunday 24 June 2012, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party Mohamed Morsi was declared winner of the run-off election and the risk of violence that a victory for his opponent Ahmed Shafiq could have triggered was averted. In the short to medium term, the shape and direction of post-Mubarak Egypt will be defined by the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military.
Two possible scenarios emerge for Morsi going forward: either defy the military and its recent constitutional manoeuvres to hold onto power, or adopt a pragmatic approach and make a deal with the leaders of the armed forces.
For Egypt, the run-off elections held on 16 and 17 June 2012 were never about making a choice between two popular options. Egyptians were instead challenged to choose 'the least of two evils'. The choice was between Shafiq, the former Prime Minister, which would have represented the continuity of the old regime and the eruption of violence, or a break from the past, albeit with a turn toward Islamist ideology, by electing Morsi. Although in electing him Egyptians avoided 'the worst of the two evils', this does not mark the end of the turbulence that characterised the transitional period following the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2012.
June 2012 has indeed been the most eventful month in the politics of post-Mubarak Egypt. It was during this month that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the body that assumed government power after Mubarak, in concert with the Egyptian judiciary, adopted draconian measures that placed the revolution's promise of a democratic order in total jeopardy.
This series of events began with the controversial judgement that the Cairo Criminal Court delivered against Mubarak on 2 June 2012. A serious anomaly in the trial was that the Court curiously acquitted six top interior ministry generals, while sentencing Mubarak and his notorious interior minister, Habib Al-Adly, to 25 years' imprisonment. The resulting dismay of Egyptians over the verdict led to Tahrir Square once again being filled with angry protestors.
SCAF's government also introduced rules reminiscent of Mubarak-era repressive laws. On 31 May, the public prosecutor announced the end of the notorious Emergency Law, which had been in force since 1981. However, within days a new decree issued through the Justice Ministry granted military police and intelligence officers the right to investigate and arrest citizens suspected of offences relating to national security and public order.
Two days before the second run-off elections, the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt handed down a judgment dissolving the democratically elected parliament. As one expert commentator observed, 'What is decided by voters in multi-stage elections goes up in smoke. It makes a mockery of the democratic process and throws the entire future of democratic transition in the Arab region in disarray.' 'Back to where you were,' read a huge red headline in the Friday edition of the independent daily newspaper, Al-Shorouk.
Regarded by many as a constitutional coup, this judgment paved the way for the SCAF to entrench its grip on power by assuming full legislative authority. The dissolution of the Egyptian parliament has set the Muslim Brotherhood, which held most of the seats in the new Parliament, at loggerheads with the SCAF. Apart from the loss by the Muslim Brotherhood of its plurality of seats in Parliament and the resultant undemocratic control of legislative power by the military, the dissolution of parliament has also ensured that the authority for drafting the final constitution of Egypt now resides with the army.
On 18 June 2012, the SCAF adopted a series of constitutional amendments. One of those amendments enabled the SCAF to control the drafting of the final constitution. According to Article 60 of the amended Constitutional Declaration, the SCAF is given the power to form a new body 'representative of all social groups' for drafting the final constitution.
In the context of the recently concluded presidential elections, the other amendments have far-reaching consequences. These amendments stripped the president of major executive powers and transferred those powers to the army. The President is not the Commander-in-Chief of the Army. According to Article 53, the president of the SCAF will fulfil this role until Egypt's final constitution is adopted. Similarly, the power of the President to declare war is subject to approval by the army. The budget of the army is also not subject to civilian oversight.
In a further blow to the power of the incoming president, Sameh Ashour, the head of the SCAF's advisory council, said that the President would remain in power until a new constitution was adopted.
Clearly, to all intents and purposes, Morsi will assume a presidency that is under the authority of the army. Although the SCAF promised to hand over power to a civilian president on 30 June 2012, the effect of these recent constitutional amendments is that the military will continue to exercise substantive legislative and executive powers.
There are two scenarios in the relationship between a Muslim Brotherhood civilian government and the army that stands to define the shape and direction of the next phase of Egypt's post-Mubarak political order.
Operating in the absence of a permanent constitution and with only nominal powers, Morsi faces the prospect of running a government that is doomed to fail. One possible way to avoid this is to defy the constitutional amendments taken during this eventful month and launch a power struggle within existing state institutions between the democratically elected office of the president and the military establishment. This is in addition to the on-going struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the army over the dissolution of Parliament.
If Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were to choose this course of action, there is no doubt that they will gain support from other political forces opposed to the power of the military establishment in the politics and economy of Egypt. However, this scenario will not be an easy one as it would inevitably result in political instability.
Another possible course of action for Morsi is to strike a deal with the army in a way that will enable both to accommodate each other. The Muslim Brotherhood is known for its pragmatism. This has earned it the reputation of being opportunist or intihaziya. Even during the transitional period this group's tendency towards opportunism has been on display. For most of the transition period, the Muslim Brotherhood sided with the SCAF during the power struggle between revolutionary forces and the army. This tendency to accommodate the military leadership is visible in the victory speech that Morsi delivered to Egyptians. In the speech, he expressed his profound affection for the military in saying he regarded it with a 'love in my heart that only God knows'. He promised to preserve the army.
Such accommodation with the army can be good for the stability of the country. However, it can also be detrimental for the revolution's demand of achieving the democratic transformation of Egypt.
Now it seems that the fate of the future of the revolution and the 'democratic' trajectory of Egypt is largely in the hands of two unlikely political forces: the military establishment, who betrayed the revolution in the interest of securing its entrenched traditional political and economic powers, and the Muslim Brotherhood, which played a minimal role in the revolutionary protests that brought down Mubarak and has the predisposition to put its political fortunes ahead of principles.
Yet, if the evolution of the transition thus far is anything to go by, this will certainly not be the end of the course of the revolution. Tahrir Square, which has been a powerful political force since the outbreak of the revolution, is sure to continue to shape the course of political developments in the country.
Solomon A. Dersso, Senior Researcher, Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Division, ISS Addis Ababa