I am not too happy writing is post, I am actually downright feeling guilty to have undertaken to do that. What I attempt to explore here is the balance of forces between the different players in post revolutionary Egypt. That would have been perfectly okay if not for the fact the many of those who once stood together at Tahrir are currently drawing ideological battle lines and staking their claims to future of Egypt. This sits in dark contrast with the days of unity and the elation that we all felt in Tahrir as being all one
. In those days there was something that bounded us that transcended any ideology.
I urge you to resist the temptation to start rolling your eyes, thinking that the author of these lines is nothing but a weary revolutionary who has little understanding of the forces of history and natural propensity of humans adopt differing and often opposing ideological stances. In this post I am not calling for any form of ideological unity. I know this to would be difficult (if not impossible) to achieve and is not necessarily desirable. I attempt here to briefly present an idiosyncratic reading of all the current players and their possible strategies.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)
The SCAF runs the Egyptian army with all its associated industrial and commercial interests, the primary concerns that drive their moves are:
- Insuring that SCAF members and their minions will not come under any public scrutiny with regards to their spending habits, benefits, profiteering, and relationship with Mubarak and his coterie. (Basic survival)
- Making sure that the emerging political landscape will not at any time run against (1), and hence their interest in having the a strong say in how the new constitution will get drafted and approved. (Medium term Survival)
- Maintaining a the popular perception that people and army’s leadership are one hand (Long term Survival).
The SCAF will not have any designs on direct power if someone can do the job for them. It appears that they are willing to cut deals with whomever will assuage their concerns. The road-map that they have put forth for democratic transition appears serve well their survival interests.
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB)
The MB is a very resilient organization that has managed to survive the political tumult of Egypt for over 82 years. They have grand pan-Islamic project that they have been unrelentingly trying to achieve in Egypt and elsewhere. Their leadership has often displayed some degree of political opportunism
throughout their history. They were the King’s Men in the time of Farouk, they blessed the 1952 revolution, and they now seek favor with the SCAF by presenting themselves as well organized political block that the SCAF could do business with. They are now the SCAF’s loudest cheerleaders. The MB see themselves as having a significant competitive advantage over all the other political forces that they would want to make the best use of that, before there edge becomes blunted. They seem to be working along following strategies:
- Making sure that nothing upsets they road-map that was put forth by SCAF as it best serves their interests.
- Building alliances with “Salfi” groups and using them at the front lines while presenting themselves as religious moderates
- Establishing good ties with the venerable Azhar university and gradually subsuming it ideologically.
The prize of the MB is get to control the parliament following the election in September. It they succeed, they will draft a constitution to their liking and get to shape the future political landscape to their advantage.
Economic disfranchisement was one of the key catalysis the brought forth the revolution, but hearing the rhetoric of many leftists one might assume it was the singular motive force. The socialist seem to be standing quite divided and they seem to be engaged in internecine ideological warfare. Although they very vocal about the rights of the downtrodden, they seem to have little to say about how can the economy can be shaped in a way that would make it globally competitive and attractive to investors. One can see little in terms of strategy beyond dismantling the exploitative economic system that we have in inherited from the Mubarak era..
Often Mubarak’s economic policy is labeled “liberal” and hence the word has become laden with negative connotations. To make matters worse Islamist have often spewed vitriol by equating liberalism with licentiousness and debauchery in their sermons. Beyond their emphasis the basic civil rights, they have provided little in terms of coherent economic policies that would address the accumulated social injustices.
The Ideologically Agnostic (IA)
This group is the probably the largest constituency of those who participated in the revolution. They share common broad concerns about the country and they have yet to subscribe to any given political philosophy. The ElAdl
party seem to particularly cater for this group, and also pressure group know as Djabha
. Yet this group, like the liberals and the socialists is still struggling to formulate a coherent political and economic plan.
The energies of the Liberals, Socialists and the IA seems to be completely sapped in putting out fires like sectarian strife, anti-protest laws, and human rights abuses. They are also trying to fight rhetoric levied against them by Islamist and an assortment of counter revolutionary groups.
Where do we go from here?
Drafting a constitution involves a great deal of compromise where the point is to lay down the essential principles of the relationship between citizens and the state and how societal self corrective forces work. It is hard, or nigh impossible to do that in an environment where the different players are focused of defining the battle line to gain advantage. An attitude of beggaring thy ideological opponent is bound to spell disaster. It is not clear how one can temper the lust for power of many of those groups. I only hope the IA will grow quickly more organized and will rise above such petty ideological warfare. It is the only way I can think of for the spirit of the revolution to live just a bit longer to lay a new and fresh foundation for the second Egyptian republic.