Elections Bring Egypt to the Edge of Abyss (JEWISH PRESS) By: Missing Peace 05/06/12)
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About a year after the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, the crisis in
Egypt has brought the country to the edge of abyss.
The political crisis escalated shortly after the Muslim Brotherhood
decided to appoint its own candidate for presidency. This decision
came after the Brotherhood, together with the Salafists, obtained an
overwhelming majority in the Egyptian parliament.
Shortly after this decision it became clear that the Brotherhood and
the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has governed
Egypt since Mubarak’s fall, are not on the same page any more. Their
differences involve key issues such as the drafting of a new
constitution and the power of the Egyptian parliament.
In addition, negotiations regarding a much needed IMF loan ended
without a deal because of lack of political support for acceptance of
the IMF conditions.
Another complicating factor is the lack of progress in drafting the
Tensions further increased after several presidential candidates,
including Khairat al-Shater, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, and
Salafist leader Abu Ishmail, were disqualified as presidential
The disqualified candidates appealed against the decision of the
supervisory body of Egypt’s election committee, but their appeals
were dismissed. The Muslim Brotherhood then simply appointed a new
candidate: Mohammed Mursi, the leader of the Freedom and Justice
Last Wednesday unknown assailants shot dead 11 Salafist protesters in
Cairo’s Abbaseya neighborhood. The Salafist protesters demonstrated
against the disqualification of Abu Ishmail.
On Friday new clashes broke out in the same neighborhood prompting
the army to impose a curfew. Most Egyptian media accused the SCAF of
being behind the bloodbath in Abbaseya.
Several political parties, among them the Muslim Brotherhood Freedom
and Justice Party, announced new demonstrations in Tahrir Square and
decided to boycott meetings with the SCAF.
As a result of the increasing violence it seems all but sure that the
presidential election, which starts May 24-25, will take place as
To complicate matters, Islamists and liberals are demanding that
there should first be an agreement on the new constitution before the
presidential elections can take place.
The Islamists, who have a large majority in parliament, want to use
the new constitution to minimize the power of the new president, and
to increase of the power of the Egyptian parliament.
The SCAF recently decided to dissolve the parliamentary committee
that was in charge of drafting a new constitution. This decision was
made after a disagreement over the composition of the council, which
consisted mainly of Islamists, whereas liberals, Copts and women were
The SCAF in turn had its own reasons for dissolving the
Constitutional Council. In this way it is trying to influence the
drafting of the new constitution and the scope of presidential power.
Transfer of power
Both liberals and Islamists fear that the Army will not really
transfer all its power to the democratically elected parliament and
This distrust is also evident from the recent demonstrations that
call for the resignation of the SCAF. During these demonstrations the
protesters also demanded that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi resigns
and even called for his execution.
On April 13 for example, Islamists held a mass demonstration in
Tahrir Square against members of the Mubarak era, meaning SCAF
officials and the now disqualified presidential hopeful Omar Suleiman.
The protesters shouted that the people “will force the Field Marshal
(Tantawi) to resign” and that “the remnants of the old regime should
Omar Suleiman is the former vice president and director of Egypt’s
intelligence service (Muchabarat), who recently signed up as a
candidate for the presidency.
Suleiman is considered to be a henchman of Mubarak, and was accused
of being an ‘Israeli agent’. He and Mubarak were pictured on placards
together with a Star of David.
In turn, in an interview with the Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm Al-
Saba’a Suleiman accused Israel of trying to look for reasons to
reconquer the Sinai desert.
The April 14th decision by the Election Committee of the Supreme
Court to disqualify a large number of presidential candidates has
significantly aggravated tensions.
Omar Suleiman was disqualified because he did not have enough
signatures from supporters (according to Egyptian law, a presidential
candidate must have at least 30,000 signatures).
The Salafist Abu Ismail (al-Nour party) was rejected because his
mother was a U.S. citizen (according to Egyptian law, the
presidential candidate, his parents and his spouse should all hold
The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Al-Shater, was disqualified
because he supposedly had a criminal past.
The disqualifications came at a time when Egypt was already
struggling with severe tensions between the various political and
The Salafist leader Abu Ishmail even predicted an Islamic revolution
if the decision to disqualify him was not reversed.
Besides the political crisis, there is Egypt’s economic mayhem which
has brought the country to the brink of disaster.
For example Egypt’s foreign currency reserves in January 2011 were $
36 billion. They now amount only to $ 15.2 billion.
In March alone the reserves decreased by $ 600 million, mainly as a
result of the absence of tourists.
Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates, who financially supported Egypt
during the Mubarak regime, are now putting up political conditions in
return for their financial aid. As a result tensions between Saudi
Arabia and Egypt have increased as well, resulting in a full fledged
crisis when Saudi Arabia arrested an Egyptian lawyer on his arrival
in Ryad. Following demonstrations at its embassy in Cairo Saudi
Arabia closed down its diplomatic missions in Egypt and recalled its
The recent attempts by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to lend
Egypt $ 3.2 billion have failed because the Egyptians were not able
to agree among themselves on the IMF’s conditions for providing the
After discussing the conditions of the loan for about two and a half
weeks, the IMF delegation returned to Washington empty handed.
A spokesman for the IMF said afterwards that Cairo should first
mobilize broad political support before the loan could be approved.
In the absence of sufficient foreign aid, the Egyptian army, which
owns a conglomerate of companies and factories, was forced to step in
and provide emergency aid to the people as well as the government.
Recent polls show that a majority of the Egyptian people are against
the IMF loan, mainly because of misunderstandings about the financial
reserves of the state.
It is generally believed that Mubarak and his family have stacked
away more than $ 70 billion in foreign banks, and that Egypt
therefore doesn’t need any external financial help. However, so far
there has been no evidence for this theory.
At present, Egypt has less than $ 9 billion dollars in current
reserves, which equals two months of imports of essential necessities
for the population.
IMF president Lagarde has already made it clear that the loan of $3.2
billion will no longer be enough to solve the worst problems.
In Israel, developments in Egypt are being followed with great
concern. Israel not only worries about the political developments in
Egypt but also about the increasing terror threat from the Sinai
Recently the gas pipeline to Israel was blown up for the fourteenth
time since January 2011. Shortly before that terror attack two Grad
rockets were fired at Eilat from the Sinai desert (even though the
Egyptian government denied this).
This was followed by an Egyptian announcement that the gas supply
treaty with Israel had been canceled.
At this moment there is still coordination between the Egyptian army
and the IDF on issues that are related to controlling anarchy and
terrorism in the Sinai desert.
The fear is, however, that this situation will change after the
transfer of power by the SCAF.
At the moment the Muslim Brotherhood seems not to be interested in a
direct change of the status quo with Israel. This mainly has to do
with the internal crisis in Egypt.
The Brotherhood is aware that Egypt is currently unable to risk a
conflict with the international community if Egypt were to cancel the
Camp David peace agreement with Israel.
However, Amos Gilad, the director of the political and strategic
affairs department of the Israeli Defense Ministry, recently warned
against wishful thinking and made clear that the Muslim Brotherhood
sees Israel as part of Islamic property (Waqf).
He also pointed out that the Egyptian parliament already wanted to
break ties with Israel when Israel responded to rocket attacks on
southern Israeli towns from Gaza.
Furthermore, only two months ago the Muslim Brotherhood threatened to
cancel the peace agreement with Israel. This happened when the U.S.
considered cutting its aid to Egypt when 43 Western activists were
not allowed to leave Egypt on grounds that they received illegal
foreign funding for their activities in Egypt.
With two leading Islamist presidential candidates that are backed by
the Muslim Brotherhood, chances are high that Egypt will vote an
Islamist into the office of president. This will undoubtedly be
followed by an Islamist constitution.
All this means that Egypt could rapidly replace Iran as the biggest
threat to Israel and Middle East peace in general. As Middle East
expert professor Barry Rubin recently wrote: ‘the situation in Egypt
is a world-class crisis in the making’. (© 2012 JewishPress. 05/06/12)
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