Is the scenario of 1954 being repeated? This question has now come to the forefront of the Egyptian scene; a scene that has been full of fluctuations and maneuvers between various political forces ever since the January 25th revolution, after the verbal sparring between the Muslim Brotherhood organization and its political party, and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). SCAF’s statement issued the day before yesterday, which was considered a direct response to the Brotherhood party’s criticisms, alluded to the [1954 scenario being repeated] in a paragraph which called for everyone to “be aware of history’s lessons, to avoid past mistakes we do not want to see repeated, and to look to the future with the spirit of cooperation”.
For the Muslim Brotherhood, this scenario has never left their minds with regards to their relationship with the Egyptian military establishment. In a statement last October, entitled “legitimate concerns” the Brotherhood General Guide Mohammed Badi expressed his concern over the recurrence of similar events that took place in 1954, listing “internal enemies” as he called them; “remnants of the defunct National Party, the remains of the disbanded police regime, liars in the media apparatus that is yet to be cleansed, the ultra-secularists, and advocates of the Western project”.
The Brotherhood’s concern is understandable and explains many of the stances and events of the past few months. In 1954 there was the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), and in 2011 and 2012 a military council is also in power, and without the military it would have been difficult for the January 25th revolution to succeed in changing the regime. At the beginning of 1954, less than two years after the July 23rd revolution, the Brotherhood were preparing themselves for power, having weakened the remaining political forces. Now they are also preparing to rule after obtaining the majority in both houses of parliament and in the constitutional assembly, whilst taking a back seat during the confrontations between the rest of the political forces and SCAF. They are taking advantage of the weak political arena, whilst other powers do not have – or have been unable to establish – a genuine political machine translating itself into the electorate’s votes, whether as a result of divisions or a lack of political experience. In 1954, the RCC decided to dismiss Muhammad Naguib, the first President of the Republic, and dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood. The RCC, led by Jamal Abdul Nasser, was then forced to retreat after massive demonstrations, re-instate Naguib and allow the establishment of parties. However, it went on to issue a partial retraction of some of these decisions a few days later, after the army used its various weapons to warn against the end of the revolution and chaos…The year ended with the departure of Naguib from the scene permanently, and the prosecution of the Brotherhood who were accused of an attempt to assassinate Abdel Nasser in the famous Mansheya Incident.
Indeed, there are similarities between the transitional period of 1952-54, and the transitional period of 2011-12, but we cannot apply the well-known saying “how similar today is to yesterday”. Egyptian society, awareness within it, and political power relations are changing; even the world itself has changed its concepts and the degree to which it interacts with events. SCAF’s statement talked about “past mistakes we do not want to see repeated”, and this means that there is an awareness of the lessons of history.
What we are seeing now is more like the last tango between the Brotherhood, who have entrenched themselves as the primary political force in Egypt, and SCAF, in a great tug of war. As we approach the moment of truth with the presidential elections that are looming two months away – and all evidence indicates that they will take place on time – the Brotherhood are potentially seeking to apply pressure to ensure their political future before the presidential election. The Brotherhood’s escalation against the Ganzouri government, whatever the dispute over its performance, has no strong justification, especially as Ganzouri’s mandate will end in two months. Logic dictates that if there is a desire to form a coalition government then this will be best formulated with a new president at the helm, rather than the situation being confused and disabled with consultations and disagreements over the composition of the new government now, an issue that could take weeks. It is likely that the Brotherhood want to ensure that if they don’t put forward a candidate for the presidency, then they will still have the right to form a government after the elections, and that the new president will not solely have this right, which has constitutionally been the case in the past.