Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Egypt: The military is without a political project | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The military council is in a state of distress; surrounded by protests warning of a second revolution to challenge its authority. It is no secret that the council has effectively ruled Egypt since the overthrow of Mubarak five months ago. The council’s fingerprints are evident in the management of different aspects of the crisis: the protests, the political parties and the media.

Although the tone of the military’s statement last week was strong, there was little resonance. On the same day as the council warned Egypt’s youth for the first time that it would not allow chaos, it offered concessions to the protestors by issuing prison sentences against the former prime minister and a number of ministers. The military also vowed that it would leave the current prime minister to choose his own cabinet.

So why has the military failed to control the situation?

Firstly, because the situation is complex, and secondly because the military does not have a political project that bears its signature. The officers behind the 1952 revolution brought with them a political project that enabled them to rule for decades. They excluded the national parties and besieged the Muslim Brotherhood, which became a partial partner. Certainly the revolution today is different in many elements from its predecessor, and the current military leadership did not spark the revolution but serves as the guardian of it. It assumed power and took over the helm without a clear project, merely playing the role of a policeman regulating movement in the political arena, amidst the vacuum resulting from the fall of a major political regime. In Egypt there is no longer a president or presidency, there are no legislative institutions, and no executive organs are working at their full capacity. Without political leadership and a clear strategy, chaos is the most likely outcome, and each side has increased its demands. The youth are demanding the implementation of earlier promises. They want justice, although demanding to rush through criminal trials is a contradiction of this principle. They also want to dismiss the government of Essam Sharaf, despite previously rejecting Ahmed Shafik, the military’s nomination, and instating Sharaf who was initially welcomed by the Tahrir square rebels, considering him a comrade. They are also demanding better wages in a country where the economy is semi-paralyzed, and reserves are in serious decline. On top of this, there is still no elected government.

I believe that the military council’s only strategy is to wait until the parliamentary elections, a date which we may not see before the end of the year.

If the military leadership had been engaged from the outset in the planning and promotion of a political project in Egypt, perhaps everyone would now have specific options in front of them. At the very least, it should have overseen political dialogue, participated in the government, and been more transparent in its positions on major issues. Yet it prefers to play a game of patience and waiting, adopting the tactic of slow concessions, using one card after another until it runs out. Today it stands naked in front of the crowds who overthrew Mubarak, or at least believe that they overthrew him.

Several questions are becoming more pressing: What is the military council’s stance towards the trial of symbols of the former regime, what will it do with the ousted president? What does it intend to do with those accused of killing protestors? What is its plan to deal with the security apparatus, which some demand to be dissolved? To what extent is it willing to eliminate the highest levels of government sectors? Where does it stand on the struggle between the constitution and the elections? What limit will it impose on media freedom? In brief, does the military leadership want to govern until the end of the transitional period, which may last a year or two?

The military establishment in Egypt is still the only safety valve, especially as the revolutionaries are from different spectra, and the differences among them are widening. The military still has dignity and respect amongst the general public, but it is losing the battle of public opinion because of its inability to express and defend its stances, if it had any stances in the first place.