Hopefully the first of regular samples of tweets from Syria based on a loosely geographically stratified sample without regard for political affiliation or content of opinion aside from a search (in Arabic) based on ‘Bashar’.
‘If we can’t unshackle ourselves from methods of the past, at least PRISM will record it all accurately.’ not a quote…
I don’t feel like editing my work anymore
There are two key differences between the coup that ended the January 25 Revolution and the coup that began the January 30 Revolution – to still unclear results. The mechanism allowing the army to rationalize the coup – whether genuinely or not – is similar. However, the underlying interests behind each differ vastly.
Firstly, this is demonstrated by the differences in timeframe. Arrests of senior NDP officials including Mubarak took a lot longer than one day; and many of them have never been tried or convicted. Moreover, the military re-appointed Chief Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, who immediately resigned. This is a strong symbolic repudiation of Morsi’s administration, which made Meguid’s dismissal a priority to the extent of pursuing constitutionally dubious power-grabs. Likely Morsi’s Sinai and Syria policies, vocally conspiratorial statements, and forced retirement of top long-term military officials further influenced prior military planning. But the carefully timed ultimately, coinciding with Sami Anan’s resignation, and the swift and carefully executed arrest of Morsi, and immediate shut-downs of satellite channels and round-ups of a large number of Freedom and Justice Party officials and then top Muslim Brotherhood officials.
Secondly, the National Democratic Party was established in 1978 by President Sadat. By 2011, it was all but a state institution. Therefore, an aggressive dismantling of those networks would have been appropriate, but didn’t really occur. Conversely, there are widespread elite complaints about Brotherhood autocracy. I am personally wary of how influential such complaints are on the ground. Previously, Egyptians have consistently preferred decisive, powerful presidents in opinon polls. However, his very public bumbling probably also attracted due attention that bothered the military in addition to virtually every non-Islamist political faction.
But the aggressive response in rounding up the Brotherhood and the FJP is not analogous to the NDP. Because despite general fears, and undoubtedly a ridiculously blatant and fascistic trend towards autocracy and power-consolidation by Morsi was occuring, the level of anger produced in comparison to that of 30 years of oppression under Mubarak is irrational, and somewhat surprising. Based on my own demographic knowledge, which in these protests is limited, friends have mentioned that they are much more diverse – in part simply because are larger than in 2011-2012.
But I suspect a new segment between those periods – from anecdotal observation of friends – is former regime members nominally or otherwise – people who for whatever reason may not have directly participated on the streets in 2011, and chose to now. But again, the level of joy and unbridled celebration is as disturbing as it is utterly unwarranted. I cannot defend President Morsi. I genuinely don’t understand both how progressive manipulation and de-legitimzation of the constituion could subsequently be ignored to argue now – where it matters to him – that he is the constitutionally legitimate leader.
Certainly there is a commonly understandable element of truth to that; but constitutional legitimacy requires a respect for constitutionalism that left Morsi, in the end, lacking in broadly perceived legitimacy. And traditionally, rebellion or mass civil disobedience is a good indicator of legitimacy. In this case, the world has made much of anti-Morsi protests, but it is not clear – now that he is out – what either majority or plurality want. There is a high degree of division. But alignment past the immediate moment, for instance on other substantive issues, is probably not so clear cut. However, arguably a key problem with Morsi’s ouster is not that he is out.
The FJP leadership must have known it was overplaying its hand in terms of how outright their majority support was. And in fact they must know that the majority of Egypt would not outright support the Brotherhood or FJP. But since they won a number of elections for whatever reason, there were fears they were trying to consolidate in lieu of future free or fair elections – a long-term fear of Islamist groups. And plenty of people who went out to protest in so-called ‘pro-‘Morsi protests were really protesting against extra-legal and extra-judicial measures that negate democratic procedures. This is the second military coup in two and a half years. And structures tend to reproduce themselves. One need only look to Turkey until very recently as one example, Syria after World War II, Sudan, Chad, or Mauritania.
But in the end, as intolerable as the situation may have been, this was probably the worst resolution from a structural sense. A referendum could have been forced, or early elections. These would have allowed constitutional continuity and would have majorly undercut a key source of ‘legitimacy’ in the eyes of Morsi’s supporters – at least in discourse. But worst of all, the country is now divided in the most intractable manner, having begun its infighting with an eye towards likely much more. But the military retains an autonomous, politically active role without civilan control.
A former professor, Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, mentioned in an interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9hA9RiKq7k) that he believed mass mobilization would constitute an adequate mechanism for pressuring either the army or autocratic rulers. In the latter case, I think this is probably right. But in the same structural manner, people have – at least initially – overwhelming welcomed military domination with a short span. And this is highly troubling, because it suggests the army is far and away more popular than any of the leaders that hope to subordinate it – at least for the moment.
I’m too depressed at the moment to write anything serious. All I can say is that like during the January 25, 2011 revolution and subsequently after the election of Morsi and appointment of Sisi, I got lost in the moment. Until February 2011, I didn’t really think about the 1952 Revolution; only when a friend mentioned removing the eagle from the flag did I really started to consider that dimension.
And then progressively, with a great many ‘hiccups,’ (did el-Baradei call the most recent spate of arrests?) it seemed the military might really be allowing a civil state to take hold in return for the military maintaining extensive economic privileges. Morsi’s presidency was a failure on political and constitutional grounds in part because he is not a skilled politician or diplomat. It would have been genuinely difficult for Egypt to maintain civility or international standing over what would have been three more years.
However, my inclination is both that most people were not protesting for that so much as economic reasons, ideological opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party, and lastly (by a good deal) political reasons. And the final issue is problematic because it highlights a segment of the population who demonstrated yesterday but is still ultimately unhappy with the military coup – and will likely increase in unhappiness as the military shoots more unarmed protesters. It also highlights the diverse agenda of protesters, like before Mubarak’s ouster. And once the symbol’s gone, which is now, that unity is no longer cohesive. This is more or less indicative in the already retributive nature of post-coup military actions – and they have so far targeted only the FJP (as far as I am aware). It took substantially longer for the military to move or allow state institutions to move against Mubarak and his family, and top members of the NDP not widely publicly reviled.
There is a senseless rapidity to the informal coalition-building that is slowly eroding everyone’s legitimacy other than the army’s, which seems to be fully cyclical. But even if the army does exactly what it did last time (…), it will still have the vast majority of weapons. It is an autonomous political entity not subordinated to civilian, and under clandestine, control. And in that respect, I’m pretty sure Sisi is not in charge – at least not fully. Why suspect that the hierarchy has changed simply because Morsi altered the facade? Keep in mind who just corrected the alteration.
I had read that Sisi informed Morsi on Monday that he would step down or be deposed; and I am relatively sure this was before Morsi’s speech. I suspect the manic dualism in Morsi’s speech was the result of a more diplomatic pre-planned speech, although one probably not compromising enough, and an extemporaneous element under severe duress from having just been threatened by the guy he thought was his chief military ally.
I cannot believe people aren’t really discussing Sami Anan’s resignation and Morsi’s Republican Guard sort of just all simultaneously walking away from their posts. And unlike after January 25, 2011, arrests occurred almost immediately. The military is not known for its brashness – not since 1948. And the appointment and immediate resignation of former Chief Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud is more or less the most obvious symbolic bollocking the military could offer to Morsi’s crashing legacy.
A former acquaintance – a semi-senior Morsi adviser – is presumably detained, I guess without charge but it is possible there was a warrant. His family hasn’t gotten any information on the matter as far as I know. Bassem Youssef spent part of the afternoon tweeting about how Morsi was really just about to shut down all the liberal media before the coup. I don’t necessarily doubt the veracity of what he’s saying; but I don’t understand how that justifies reprisal shut downs and arrests.
— Michael Sheflin (@MichaelSheflin) July 5, 2013
Egypt’s partisanship really threatens to tear it apart, and the military has not helped in its own incompetent political maneuvering that has led to this point – albeit with impressively unrefined and accidental Brotherhood assistance.
Now Revolutionaries like Ahmed Maher of 6 April, el-Baradei, and socialist Hamdeen Sabbahi have attempted to justify the coup. But a large minority having protested, like a large minority is doing on the other side today, is an invalid criterion – because the ballot box is the proper mechanism for measuring support. And the second criterion is Morsi’s constitutional autocracy. I agree with the latter criticism, and empathize with their consternation.
But I believe this is a demand of the intelligentsia; and while very important, in and of itself does not actually address the ‘people’s demands.’ One can argue as to whether a similar scenario existed after January 2011; and it may have then been a fluke that things appeared to be moving toward pluralistic democracy. I really hope that with these first-day of #not_a_coup arrests and shootings and shut downs, that Mansour is somehow able to create this idyllic rights-haven that I can’t believe he will… And the logic of de-institutionalizing political behaviors by employing those behaviors is somewhat twisted; though perhaps no more so than Morsi’s own. But the direct implications for a truly liberal political culture are not promising.
Their is a possible silver lining for supporters of a civil state, although it may take significant bloodshed or internal shuffling to materialize, is that sustained and large scale mobilization on both sides may eventually force the military to accept subordination under a civilian leadership. That was just one other argument these protests should have addressed; but instead they borrowed an easy if undemocratic method. And now they’re trying desperately, and somewhat inarticulately justify the necessity of plurality-rule based on the ‘disappointing outcome’ hypothesis. And because the protests did succeed in being huge on June 30, the military seized on the opportunity to elevate calls for Morsi’s ouster – particularly after his manic speech.
In the wake of the army’s ultimatum and President Morsi’s subsequent speech, there has been much discussion – mostly speculation – over what is next to come. There appear to be widespread and vocal calls to return to military rule, and intransigence on the part of the President and his camp. In this climate, Salafis seem to be nervously backing off of their own overly ideological and infrequently qualified support for their fellow Islamist. While some have joined pro-Morsi protests, the leadership appears to be endorsing calls for early elections.
Rather than polarization, the not totally unexpected scenario has pushed the new regime against a wall. It is a similar wall against which Mubarak, probably under the influence of his wife and younger son, and his technocratic coalition were pushed. The overzealous population of bureaucratic institutions with loyalists, and the overzealous pursuit by President Morsi of questionably constitutional methods of problem solving have stoked some serious flames.
But the kindling was split between a very broad complicity in and acceptance of the methods and thinking of the former system and a purported and wholehearted enthusiasm for its removal. But the political system, much like Mubarak’s ouster, was clearly based on the underlying republican structure of Egypt – which is based on the military. I had debates with friends, almost immediately after Mubarak resigned, as to whether this constituted a military coup – and I believed it did.
Still, whatever one’s metaphysical inclinations, without a clear unifying symbol to oppose, the opposition fractured both among and within itself. Early examples ranged in ridiculousness from education-qualified voting or the ban on former National Democratic Party candidates, which was later ruled unconstitutional. Liberals were almost immediately fractured into a tiny minority of democrats and those whose methodology is eerily similar to that of filoul. But all of this occurred against a more or less untouched military backdrop.
Almost nobody can hold claim to a continuous mantle of liberalism in Egyptian politics. Even the socialist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi recently repeated a call for military intervention. That is a disturbing pronouncement for someone who had more or less represented radically democratic hopes for a chunk of the population. But President Morsi’s speech was reminiscent of Mubarak’s speech – and it was replete with references to legitimacy. The obvious difference is that Morsi was elected; and in that respect has a more obvious claim to legitimacy. The problem is that elections are a democratic mechanism.
Democratic states nearly always fade or wither without the solidification of constitutional republicanism. And in this regard, President Morsi’s attempts to dismiss the Prosecutor General or to seize legislative powers makes it difficult to accept his argument of legitimacy. It is equally difficult to accept his argument that simply remaining in power is his duty. In large part, his lethargy or ambivalence in dealing with Egypt’s crises have made it far easier for the majority of the population to nominally withdraw their support. Simply saying legitimacy enough may subliminally alter the stars, but people can use it as little more than a meme.
This is notwithstanding that qualifying the election results by turnout and voter registration, Morsi actually received about 24.6% of the total vote in Round 1 or 11.2% of the total number of registered voters. Turnout was slightly higher in the second round – and at just over 50% argues for the broadly acceptable legitimacy of second round results – but qualified by registration Morsi still only received support from just over 24% of the electorate. Morsi did have a slim democratic mandate. However, these figures highlight both how slim it really was (particularly qualified by the first round) and the large number of disenfranchised from the outset of Egyptian elections. It may not be an unusual feature among new democracies or democracies in general. But it adds a pretty powerful wildcard.
So, much speculation has concerned Morsi’s potential departure. Speculation persists over the interests of the military, with many perhaps indicating they have forgotten that the military ceded power only a year ago. Still more have forgotten that the military seized power in 1952 and has ruled more or less unchallenged since then. But Morsi’s departure will resolve itself tomorrow. Similarly, President Mubarak resigned in a day; although technically he didn’t resign, and he didn’t go fully of his own accord, necessarily.
But issues of blame and appearance are not necessarily paramount. People have forgotten that the army is in large part to blame for some of the current crises. Morsi seems to forget that the minimum wage hike he took credit for apparently occurred under the SCAF. The New York Times reported on a number of Morsi-ally arrests, although the only thing I have seen regarded the body guards of Khairat el-Shater, with his whereabouts unknown at the time.
Very little speculation seems to concern how this situation would differ from January 25th, or how the competency of politicians or the military has been altered in that interim? What exactly would change if Egypt returned to the policies it had pursued since at least the mid-1950s?
Hezb el-Nour, the Salafi Party, may have backed off its support. But they must know that they will never rule Egypt. However much things have come to a head between the military and the President and Brotherhood – and it is clear that they have – they were still unwilling allies at times. The same cannot be said of Hezb el-Nour. It is not necessarily relevant, but I had seen some suggestion that Nour could emerge as the major player if the Brotherhood were once again banned. This is implausible, as the only mechanism for power since 1952 has been through endorsement of the military.
Reasons given for Morsi’s ouster do not seem to match broader stated goals. In fact, many of the underlying problems Morsi is claimed to have not addressed are also not being addressed in the most recent round of protests. Beneficiaries of such an ouster are really unclear; because while the Brotherhood will almost certainly lose new Presidential elections, a new president will face similar problems. And any new president will be equally constrained by the omnipresent military structure of economics and politics.
But a new president is also unlikely to have as cohesive a support base, making action additionally difficult. People may have forgotten almost entirely that a military is supposed to defend against external threats. But this could be explained by police forces never really taking the lead in protecting people domestically anyway.
On some level, the military benefits most from a nominally stable political situation without a strong, social movement-backed political force. A recent video blog post by a friend mentioned the situation in Egypt prior to revolution, in which there was a sort of three-way split between the palace, the parliament, and the British. Nasser himself acknowledged that Egyptians were fond of cyclical identification: and slogans used against the Ottomans were subsequently adapted to the British. But unlike during that time, Parliament and Palace – in this case – were not really in conflict.
Moreover, the impact of American involvement is very unclear. The strongest relationship between the US and any Egyptian political players is clearly with the army, which receives American aid but which also maintains interpersonal and lobbying relationships. Ultimately, the jubilant calls in the street signal the worst kind of counter-revolution. It threatens to once again legitimate the military rule that has already continued unabated throughout this period. And it threatens to do so at the expense of the nascent attempts to institutionalize democratic processes.
In fairness, Morsi does increasingly seem to be intractably incompetent. And he cannot, at least not yet, claim that he was threatened despite all attempts at outreach. He is not seen as a reliable player among most political entities or the public. But most political entities would probably meet and deal with him anyway – even if they would publicly eschew meetings. And this is where my fear and condemnation of the ‘opposition’ movement is starting to grow in anticipation of tomorrow. [I should clarify that I mean my annoyance grows with their own intransigence, and a lack of recognition that the goal should not be Morsi’s resignation.]
Constitutional issues are, ironically, not of paramount import. This is mostly because the constitution has been sidelined since the issue of Islam as the continuing official religion wasted everyone’s energy and political capital. The constitutional issues at root are far more fundamental, and cannot be encoded in a document without being resolved in the broadest possible consensus.
When protests started in 2011, they galvanized and changed a lot of people. In part, feeling part of something bigger and having hope for change and vox populi was inspiring to many who had lived under a semi-official policy of forced political apathy. And then that apathy somewhat resurfaced. Some ‘career’ revolutionaries may not see a path back to normal governance. Yet others have no connection to the revolution; and the most recent protests seem to have fused together various [‘original’] revolutionaries and various non-revolutionaries [or nouveau-revolutionaries].
This is dangerous to the former, who already clearly are seen as the greatest threat by the military and political establishment. Their lack of connection to either, and the looseness of their hierarchy make them difficult to co-opt consistently. But the idea that the military has ‘left,’ is absurd. And the idea that the military should re-intervene is a matter of showmanship and sleight of hand. Ultimately, the majority of the population has apparently not been sold on the need for radical social reformation – or at least not in the direction originally envisaged by most revolutionaries. Conversely, a subset has not really been sold on the politics of normalcy – and I am not sure they want to be.
In part this is due to the lack of reliable information through polling material. I am both lucky and sad that my own attempt to start a polling company in Cairo in April 2011 ultimately failed. I would undoubtedly otherwise be in jail for espionage. But one must wonder about the democratic prospect of such a situation in which gathering critical information on the public’s composition and demands is extremely tightly controlled. [Maybe I’m misinformed and it’s wonderful now. But it seems that from the Presidential palace to Mohammed Mahmoud, I don’t seem to be much less aware of what’s going on…]
And the media also shares a lot of blame in the scenario for printing all news – they’ve simply mitigated the fitness criterion. Many papers treated Morsi’s ouster as all but a fait accompli over the weeks leading up to June 30. The condition on the ground is unclear, but I have read several accounts of random street violence involving serious firearms. If some of this sounds similar to January 2011, it probably should. There is a greater degree of freedom in public discourse and media, but it is qualified by partisanship. It is a free press as existed in 18th century America. And what followed that were the sedition acts that are likely to follow any new transition away from democratic structures. Another key difference is that the military has been more visibly political in a way not apparent for decades prior.
But they have not subsequently left power; and they did not enter into power in February 2011. They clear waded a little further with Morsi. But my inclination is that they will not ditch him if possible. [This may be an attempt to forestall his own notions of a civil state, however.] To borrow from the pages of January 2011, two possibilities have not been explored in great depth: the first involves his direct military ouster, and the second involves him being ditched by his party. He doesn’t really have a party, so it is difficult to see how a coalition could push him out. For once it seems he may be more of a public liability to the Freedom and Justice Party than vice versa.
But ultimately, the military will almost certainly not find a more reliable partner in the opposition scene – unless they are banking on some miraculous return of Ahmed Shafiq. In all, democrats undoubtedly stand to lose the most. If the military forces out the Brotherhood and FJP, they will have signaled an exclusion of any future relationship with Islamists moving forward. This would bring jubilation to some of the population. And why not? No doubt many of them missed their opportunity to demonstrate in 2011; so they will get their fill now – when their interests more directly oppose a movement away from the NDP and previous corrupt structures. Many could afford to live under such structures.
But Mubarak ruled for decades. Morsi has ruled for three days over a year. The same type of symbolic resistance is not appropriate. There is a sense of juvenile fascination – like an infant learning about its body. There is a great corresponding sense of justice accompanying a breaking point after which people confront decades of oppression and stagnation. But like hatred of Obama over his deficit, and clearly not due to at least partly latent racism, many protesters simply hate the Brotherhood because it’s an Islamist organization. It was disheartening to see discussions on Sandmonkey’s twitter feed calling Morsi Egypt’s worst president – even worse than Mubarak.
Anyone can say what they want – to a point. But that level of anger is somewhat difficult to understand. It is particularly difficult to understand coming from someone so personally harassed and affected by the former regime. But moreover, returning to a fifty-year old policy of excluding the Brotherhood entirely would be a devastating to Egypt’s nascent democracy. And it would alienate a large segment of the population – including those to the right of the Brotherhood. Liberals, and there are not many, should have no doubt that once their role in legitimating a re-transition is satisfied, they too will return to jail. [Most will go abroad.]
It is very disheartening that political and policy disagreements have been allowed to cloud the vision of previous visionaries. But worse, I am shocked that in the year and more that the opposition has had to think, and ponder, and articulate they have come up with no actual unifying positive measures forward. [In fairness, Baradei has, but he came up with it either around or before like February 2011.] Morsi has become a symbolic victim as much as Mubarak. Neither is wholly undeserved. But such objects of mobilization are frightening because there is no corresponding mobilization in support of building institutions or entrenching constitutionalism.
This morning, it became clear that President Morsi considers the Army communique to be akin to a coup (communique akin to a coup). This is not entirely surprising. The President appears to have the type of personality and employ a style of governance that suggests anything not his own is some sort of foreign conspiracy.
The irony in this case is that Morsi is now relying on American support to prevent a military coup – at least this is what has been claimed. In reality, that situation is even less clear. Khaled Fahmy, in a scathing bit recently called out Ambassador Anne Patterson for misrepresenting the scale of discontent and overplaying the President’s desire to actually offer meaningful concessions. But it is not clear where American interests lie in the eyes of President Obama.
During Mubarak’s tenure, he was loathe to break away. Apparently several key regime officials had staunchly argued for that policy. But whatever one’s distaste for the Muslim Brotherhood and FJP – either because they are Islamists or Muslim, or because they seem to be incompetent – displacing elected leadership seems unlikely to be the moment President Obama would opt for decisiveness.
And both extremes in Egypt are increasingly acting like infants with no sense of scope. I suppose were an infant capable of such cognition, they would cry on watching their candy stolen from them. But at a certain point in this contagious process, everyone’s crying and nobody has candy. President Morsi, who like SCAF and the last days of Mubarak and Suleiman has relied on threats of shadowy foreign conspiracies, has now put all his eggs in that basket. For those of us whose personal safety was affected by those rumors, it’s a little difficult not to feel a sense of schadenfreude.
But there are several broader issues at stake here. On the face of it, the military’s suggestion to abrogate the constitution is not unreasonable. Lawmakers notoriously passed an election law that did not follow the guidelines of the constitution written by some of the same people. And when the lower house of parliament was dissolved by court decision, the President attempted to usurp additional constitutional authority. I wrote about this a little – though not much – more in a previous post. But shortly, it is nearly impossible for any serious observer to believe that the President or most if not all prominent FJP lawmakers have any real understanding of Egyptian constitutionalism. But the 1971 Constitution, for instance, was not bad. Passing a new constitution, I agreed with a staunch revolutionary once, was more about a symbolic transition.
And there is another angle that is very interesting. Presuming the Presidency’s announcement that it was not aware of the announcement prior, then people’s perception of it as a threat against Morsi and the FJP is justified. I think, personally, the jubilant opposition will be again covering their balls shortly. But factions and politicians in this context seem to have the foresight of a goat and the memory of a fruit fly.
Still, this does suggest that my original inclination regarding the ‘forced retirement’ of Anan and Tantawi in favor of al-Sisi was not undertaken with considerable military complicity. Many if not most believed this was an orchestrated fait accompli orchestrated to prevent their prosecution. I think, reinforced by recent events, that I hold to my original position. Morsi may have pushed them out under agreement with a newer guard. And the old guard is probably maneuvering for at least some revenge – even if merely humiliation. And Anan’s resignation in that respect is not surprising. But for many others who assumed a greater level of complicity, this probably should change some calculations.
In particular, it is probably wrong to think of Morsi as some sort of dictator. Dictators, at least in Rome, were elected but they had absolute power – and for life. Morsi is gradually having his back hair planed off through the bureaucratic friction he has inherited. And he has also stoked this by virtue of an abrasive style and by simply being an outsider. The real problem is that many of the people calling for his ouster and the return of the military are probably mostly upset because of the military’s economic and political domination. And it seems, at least as of yesterday, that domination has continued more or less unabated.
This morning I awoke to find large headlines concerning the Egyptian military’s ‘ultimatum.’ The ultimatum itself suggests that Egyptian factions must work together for the broader interests of the country or face some form of intervention. Based on cursory social media examinations, and talking to some friends in Cairo, it is clear that most are taking this as a direct threat by the military against President Morsi and probably the Muslim Brotherhood. But the Secretary General of the Salafi party Hezb el-Nour, Shaaban Abd el-Alim has expressed concerns.
The scope or possibility of such ‘intervention,’ is yet unclear. And it is likely to become clearer within the forty-eight hour period underlined by the military. Below that headline on Egypt Independent, is a discussion of a firefight between guards of Deputy Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Khairat el-Shater and presumably Central Security services. It is possible that this is a telling sign.
But it is not entirely clear cut. Many observers, myself not included, believed that the appointment of Defense Minister Abdul Fatah el-Sisi was a means of letting Chief of Staff Sami Anan and former Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi to back out quietly and without prosecution. This, along with clear dealings between the Brotherhood and military during the January revolution, and probable dealings just before the outcome of the Presidential Election was announced, the Brotherhood is probably not seen as an uncooperative partner of the military.
That being said, they are by no means natural allies. Egypt’s history is intertwined with the political aspirations of the military. Though these are hard to define, top officials have probably signaled that they consider their economic domination over production more important than overt control of politics.
I find it, often, difficult to write about Egypt because I probably do not know enough to engage the level of the best scholars. But I know enough to be unable to engage lay audiences. A very good summary of the situation can be found here, http://nisralnasr.blogspot.com/. But I am interested in why the military would issue an ultimatum that could be interpreted as re-embroiling them in public politics? The outcomes are that Morsi stays or goes; and it is not clear that the military benefits from the latter – particularly if it returns them to the unpopular and unenviable position of governing.
Republic, Democracy, or Façade
The first weekend of the revolution, though not during the first few days, the Muslim Brotherhood became a participant and powerbroker in the ongoing mass demonstrations. On the first level, first Brotherhood members went to protest, and eventually the organization could no longer remain neutral – particularly when it looked like the revolutionaries’ efforts might succeed. And as that singularity approached, they also served to negotiate both with members of the increasingly former National Democratic Party and with the military. The results of such negotiations are unclear.
Because of their longstanding anathema to successive administrations and governments of Egypt’s republican system, stalwarts of Egypt’s republic were concerned. In reality, the Brotherhood probably first officially forayed into mainstream Egyptian politics with the Parliamentary elections in 2005 – at the latest. It is difficult to believe that 87 Muslim Brotherhood MPs could have been elected to Parliament under an obviously rigged system without an unspoken level of complicity.
But this did not achieve the type of blowback that the Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party have experienced since the January revolution. Such blowback is much but not entirely deserved. Nisr al-Nasr says it much better than I can, but while President Morsi has proven relatively incompetent, he has also become a symbol for wounds that have taken decades to fester. However, he and the Brotherhood’s leadership are not entirely deserving of pity.
Protests yesterday, if nothing else, have illustrated the lack of hegemony the Brotherhood has in Egyptian politics. But in their new positions, both Brotherhood politicians and President Morsi have taken front rows in helping shape official rhetoric. To a large extent this means accusing foreign spies helping secularists and liberals. This has persisted, with some success, despite recent revelations that the President was freed from prison with the illegal assistance of Hamas and Hezbollah; and a recent report highlighting Salafi groups as the only provable recipients of foreign assistance – aside from obviously the government and military.
The dangers of attempts at manipulation are generally clear. This rhetoric was not enough of a distraction to ultimately win back mass support for either Mubarak or the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces when they had power. But it was successful in the Referendum of 2011 and probably in the Parliamentary elections. This would not necessarily be clear from data. But it was common knowledge at the time that Islamists offered religious pressure on election lines and helped frame the 2011 Referendum in exclusivist religious terms.
The latter was very unusual. When I asked a local young man who worked at a nearby market how he voted, he explained he voted ‘Yes’ to rebuild the nation. That’s a valid viewpoint. But upon further examination, he and others explained that FJP (most commonly) volunteers (or impressed volunteers) suggested voting ‘No’ was part of the Gay-Christian-Secularist agenda. The issue of a civil state was framed around Civil versus Islamic, rather than the actual issue – which was Civil versus Military.
Again, Nisr al-Nasr probably does this better, but the Brotherhood refused to initially field a Presidential candidate and delineated a quota for their Parliamentary run. Presumably this was to assuage public and military fears that they would try to take the government over and run it in as clandestine and unaccountable a manner as their organization. They ultimately reneged on both issues. They also pressured the SCAF to amend electoral laws to their favor. They seemed genuinely shocked when the law was declared unconstitutional for violating very clear terms set forth for elections therein. But worse still, SCAF and then Morsi hung their hats on referendums that did not meet minimum internationally accepted requirements for legitimate referendums. Generally a floor for participation is set – so that if there is 30% turnout and 51% accept it, that minority cannot bind all of society to a constitutional arrangement in which they did not participate. The actual proportion of Egyptians that accepted the 2012 Referendum was closer to 21% – 33% turnout and 64% acceptance. But to the new Egyptian democrats, voting is apparently enough – even, or especially, when the content of the electoral platform is unknown.
And then, again, President Morsi has attempted several extra-judicial or extra-constitutional moves, for whatever reason. Most visibly, he seized legislative power after the dissolution of the lower house of Parliament; and he tried to unconstitutionally dismiss a private prosecutor. The latter issue is very interesting. While Abdel Magid’s inability to prosecute former officials has a number of possible explanations, it is not clear he is outright corrupt. Anger over him is more symbolic anger over a general failure to achieve legal justice after the abuses of the revolution. Nisr al-Nasr’s author mentions Morsi’s claim to fame being the minimum wage hike – but also points out that this preceded the President’s election by six months.
Clausewitz believed that war was a clumsy extension of politics. Morsi is not a graceful politician. But he is not deserving of pity, because he has allowed himself to become the exceptional president. Whereas Mubarak was clearly a tyrant, he had developed a system as a front of that tyranny. In fairness, the poor design and violence of that system has led us to this point. But rather than shaping some new way, the current President has attempted to default on the corrupt values of the old system. He has increasingly defaulted on its language as well. And this betrays both a lack of vision and a sense of entitlement that probably encourage public anger. His speech, in some ways arguably reminiscent of Mubarak’s second to last official speech, is a decent exemplar.
Extrapolating Factional Support Issues from Previous Election Data
There is something even a little more dangerous, in that there does not appear to be accountability associated with democracy. So far, Egyptians have been given no reason to believe that voting for anyone is likely to produce an outcome that will heed their interests more closely. In part, these may simply be the difficulties of a nascent, unstable system. But in present conditions, they absolutely do not seem to tend toward a stable equilibrium.
In my previous post, I used a very (very) simple model to suggest that unequal defections primarily from Secular Revolutionary forces to the Presidential candidacies of Morsi and Shafiq may have played the pivotal role in the 2012 Presidential Election. Clear Parliamentary results are much more difficult to get at – I recall seeing them in greater detail at some point, but I suspect this must not have been through the electoral commission. However, district-level results are available at least for the proportional representation aspect of the election. But these unfortunately do not correspond to other electoral districts, so the most specific comparisons can only be made at the governorate level.
My reading of the relatively complicated Parliamentary results suggests that based on votes rather than seat allocation, the ‘Islamist Establishment’ received 36.5% and the Islamist Independents 30.5%; the secular remnants of the former regime received just over 20% of the ballot, whereas Secular Revolutionaries received just under 13%. There is a slight inconsistency between this estimation and my estimate based on presidential candidates:
|Islamist Establishment||Islamist Independent||Secularist Regime||Secularist Revolutionary|
One can make several possible conclusions. The public may have moved away from Islamism as an inherent ‘good,’ devoid of any procedural clarification or platform offerings. Alternatively, selection criteria may have been quite different in either election, or a different sample may have participated in either. When polled recently by an official Egyptian government organization, just over 50% claimed they would not reelect Morsi. It may be the case that a trend of disillusionment – particularly with the Islamist-dominated Parliament – may be continuing.
It seems there is probably a good deal of truth to the increasing polarization between Islamism and Secularism. But it is not clear which direction or form that will take. I would be personally shocked if the majority of the country wants a return to military rule – or to explicit military rule, rather. But the data does support a large minority or possibly plurality might not be totally opposed. That is to say, a minority remains nominally aligned with former regime forces at least in official data.
But this simply suggests that a recurrent coup might be plausible. It does not imply that such action would benefit the military. Quite the opposite, the situation now is very similar to that in January 2011. Commentators, as the President himself and his supporters, harp on the fact that President Morsi is the first democratically elected President. But he has aptly shown that democracy need not inherently lead to responsiveness or accountability. But moreover, his election may reveal failings in the Egyptian electoral system more than it may reveal the desires of the Egyptian electorate.
A cartoon was recently posted by We Are All Khaled Said (Arabic) showing the military whispering into the ears of the masses that the country needed a return to military rule. And then the people turn and shout for the military to return. But it is a valid fear because of the clear calculation involved in intercession during the January revolution – a decision and mobilization not at all made on the fly.
The military has seen the fickleness of the people’s political will. Morsi is as much a victim of a climate of revolution and mobilization that had briefly returned to apathy and despair. And the President, while clearly trying to live one day at a time, has fallen prey to a problem common to Egyptian political actors – he cannot see passed the evening into the next day. And so managing crisis badly has not really led to anything new; and it has merely allowed poor crisis management. But the military has literally just ‘learned this lesson.’
The idea that they would once again take the baton, even in the face of polarization, is unlikely. More likely, they are trying to put pressure on the President for a real salvation government – for instance, with a Prime Minister not from the Brotherhood. As Morsi has bumbled along intractably, quite publicly, he has attracted a lot of attention to Egypt’s economy and politics. He has even contributed to having some aid for the military held up in Washington. In fairness, that’s really their fault, but he has remained notably silent for one who supposedly guides the state’s mouthpieces.
I suspect the military is trying to deflect from international attention, and put severe pressure on an otherwise clandestine group to be an actual democratic political player. A friend wrote an article some months ago lauding the ‘democratic Islamists.’ I offered a scathing analysis on Facebook. But the reality is that many Islamists see the winner-takes-all system as inherently democratically equitable. And hence an unarmed, harassed and unprotected minority is simply trying to oppress and harass the well-organized, pseudo-militant majority. But such are the first pangs of fascism. Where the non-Brotherhood populace may not find a friend in Morsi, the military probably has. But the relationship must have come to a head enough that they felt the need to chastise publicly as a means of additional pressure.
Two years ago, I watched as the unorganized Egyptian citizenry rose up en masse and pushed back against an oppressive police force and toppled an autocratic tyrant. At the time, even before President Mubarak had deferred his powers, there was a general sense of jubilation. It was clear to everyone that Mubarak could not resume normal governance, and it was only a matter of time until he would inevitably step down.
Perhaps most telling of the irony of the situation, a new acquaintance turned to me in Tahrir on February 4, 2011 and said – regarding the filoul or remnants of the former regime – that the price of democracy was sharing the same rights with them. It was a hopeful statement. But it was not omnipresent. The revolution, that is to say those eighteen days, had several stages. And at almost every juncture there was a factionalization, far clearer in hindsight, that has shaped the broad domestic organization of Egyptian politics.
Liberals, Secularists, and Islamists… Not a good enough schema
One can offer any number of categorizations of Egyptian political actors: socialists, liberals, Islamists, and nationalists. The Islamist and secularist divide was clear early on, and the nationalists as distinct from liberals became clearer later on. However, there is far greater fluidity than any set rubric would suggest. And in many cases ‘liberals’ have argued for positions as illiberal as any other. This division is also not entirely accurate as within the inaccurate ‘Islamist’ category, one should also define the ‘Core Brotherhood,’ in contrast to more liberal and more independent Brotherhood members. One could also look at Salafis in terms of the more established political Salafi class in contrast to nouveau lay Salafis who are both at a distance from and perhaps somewhat repulsed by the new Egyptian politicization of Islam.
Unfortunately, numbers are difficult to compile in a way that shows anything of real value. But it is worth noting that subsequent to the revolution, official election data and results are freely available online. This is a monumental change in terms of information. However, the data also do not show much of a connection between turnout overall. Instead, there is some evidence that turnout between the referendums in 2011 and 2012 respectively may have been linked; likewise there is some evidence that turnout between rounds of the presidential elections was also linked. But that linkage is not as strong between the two types of elections.
So the President’s argument the referendum has any bearing on his legitimacy may be inaccurate – at least not on the face of it. I have searched for this data but never seriously enough to forestall my failure by default. Still, my suspicion is that no Egyptian referendum has ever failed – or if so such failure is extremely rare. And thus the success of any specific presidentially-mandated referendum in Egypt should not be taken prima facie as evidence of the success or failure of that presidency. I am not sure to what extent that has been the case in the West regarding the two visible referendums over the last few years. I am not sure to what extent most people cared.
Rather, Morsi’s mandate comes from an amalgam of forces, which was well known between rounds of the presidential election. To test the word on the street at the time, I grouped candidates into four broad categories: Secular Revolutionary, Secular (former) Regime, Islamist Independent, and Islamist Establishment. The revolutionary forces were split over whether to support a Brotherhood candidate or a member of the former regime, and so their vote was actually split.
Aside from that, Islamist forces supported Morsi, along with some revolutionaries. And former regime stalwarts, along with the staunchest secularist aspects of revolutionary forces, support Shafiq. Without a large group of revolutionaries, Morsi would not have been elected president. And as a factor affecting policies, this has been something that is not often acknowledged – particularly by the President. But this is also not a theory in a vacuum. Using an algorithm based on that information to predict Morsi/Shafiq Round 2 electoral outcomes from Round 1 results is highly effective:
|Pred (coef, p, r)||1.1754, 0, 0.8920||1.1754, 0, 0.8917|
So despite some bias or skew, this hypothesis cannot be rejected outright on statistical grounds. It is likely that split-discussion on the matter among revolutionaries at the time did in fact equate to action, which was also split. And I personally observed this to be true in a handful of cases.
But, if one adjusts the ratio of defection to either Morsi or Shafiq from the Secular Revolutionaries, the result is even more robust: MorsiPredict = (0.5877 * SecRev) + IslInd + IslEst, and ShafiqPredict = (0.4123 * SecRev) + SecReg
|Pred (coef, p, r)||0.9662, 0, 0.9902||0.9662, 0, 0.9902|
And this may suggest that there was a somewhat more significant defection to Morsi as compared to Shafiq. This may have reflected a greater fear, at the time, of a resurgence of the former regime as compared to a fear of Islamization. However, neither that fear nor the configuration that produced it has proven immutable.
Fear of True Dictatorship versus Institutionalized Coups
The President should have early come out with a broad platform for various reforms, notably tax reform, employment and subsidies, security sector, and constitutional. His most notable impact has inadvertently been in the last category. And in part, the reliance on ambiguous referendums to cite dubious constitutional claims has frightened observers into thinking that the President is in fact trying to monopolize power. But Morsi did not come out with such a platform, and his administration has primarily been shaped by loyalists and Brotherhood members plucked from around him.
The devastating singularity that has shaped Egypt’s last year is largely the result of a decrepit state chugging along for most of Mubarak’s rule. This is, for sure, not President Morsi’s fault. But if his goal was not to help, he should not simply be occupying a position until Khairat el-Shater is no longer politically excluded and will replace him. Instead, Morsi’s Egypt is at best as bad a rights-violator as the SCAF’s administration – and both are (in numbers) worse than Mubarak’s administration. It has done next to nothing to manage severe economic crises. And it has arguably been seen as consolidating power at the expense of managing either crisis.
I think people would be a lot less angry if the President were publicly willing to admit any of this. And yet his speech did not seem to address the issue, as it did not really seem to quell the palpable disquietude. But again, the issue is not of blame. The Tamarod movement does not have legal standing. However, if they have actually achieved over 22 million signatures, this would probably mark mass participation exceeding the total number of voters in the first round of the 2012 Presidential Election.
There is no legal standing to the matter. Whatever one’s qualms about Morsi’s election, he is the closest thing to a freely and fairly elected leader that Egypt has ever had. So the issue comes down to whether impeachment is appropriate. On the one hand, arguments over his incompetence are not inherently invalid. On the other hand, without a constitutional channel to displace him, there is risk of encouraging instability by destabilizing newly reconstituted institutions. This is not entirely theoretical, coups – by delegitimizing any standing order – do have a tendency to beget coups, notably in Chad, Sudan, and formerly Turkey (arguably to different effect).
But those afraid of what has happened in his first year must be truly petrified of waiting out another three. There is a fork, at the moment: and either Morsi will stay or he will leave. I do not believe he is likely to leave. Though mass protests provided the cover, last time, the mechanism for Mubarak’s removal was undoubtedly the military. And based on the lack of prosecution of members of SCAF like Anan and Tantawi, it is quite probable that the appointment of the new Defense Minister el-Sisi reflects a deal between the Brotherhood and the Army. It is not surprising as negotiations began in the late days of January 2011.
So there are a series of possibilities subsequent to these events. The opposition has presented a number of demands over time, varying in reason. But the President has appeared relatively intractable in his lethargic response to everything. Every once in a while he proposes dialogue that never seems to occur with any players of importance. Perhaps he is waiting for the Renaissance; hey, we all are. And as one so fond of referendums, why does he not hold a referendum on his presidency. I am not kidding here. This would be a way of legally restoring confidence – or not. And it is a well-known legal and constitutional mechanism for selecting Egypt’s president. Why not repurpose it?
But this, too, is unlikely as the President would never bind himself to an uncertain outcome. And this unfortunately leads to a best case scenario which had been repeatedly and vocally suggested by el-Baradei – a national salvation government consisting of a broad base. In any such cabinet, Muslim Brotherhood members should form a minority. But based on the current trends, even this outcome seems almost impossible. And in part, a rational analysis may sadly lead back to the futility and anger that has led many Egyptians to the streets today.
But the results of this analysis suggest something else that is interesting. The revolutionaries are almost certainly divided. And we move further from the unique sentiment felt by those of us fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. And as time dilutes those feelings of hope, so the memory of a common enemy symbolized by Mubarak or the NDP is no longer enough of a guiding principle forward. So any ‘natural’ coalition of revolutionaries is almost certainly doomed to fail – at least extrapolating from what little official data is available.
A Liberal Pivot?
Based on the outcome in the Presidential Elections, this suggests that revolutionaries need to regroup under better principles. This does not need to be a conscious process. Over time, the small and extreme parties will have to be reabsorbed. The split will probably come down to a secularist anti-liberal faction and a liberal faction. In the election, my argument is that the secularist anti-liberal faction sided with Shafiq and the liberal faction with Morsi. The liberal faction is the one now uncertain how to move forward.
So the core of politics, which certainly played out after Parliamentary Elections, is the ‘broad’ Islamists and the ‘broad’ secularists. Sad that it took so long to get there – but this image is only valid under certain circumstances. If the divide had not been between a former NDP Prime Minister and a Brotherhood representative, it would probably not have played out this way. Nevertheless, it is possible that the liberal faction can play a pivotal role in shaping Egyptian politics in the near-future. One reason this is not really visible from Parliamentary Election data is that this framing is not a natural or immutable one, and will undoubtedly change.
But this is the first real Egyptian foray into democratic Islamist politics. And as a result a deeply religious society did not inherently distrust Islamism or the Brotherhood. On the latter, some certainly did – but that has increased with the sad realities of modern governance. However, the liberals have never really recognized their limited scope in a society like Egypt’s. And if they play the pivot rather than the moralists, they may be more successfully able to help moderate the Brotherhood or the secularists by means of conditional support.