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Revolution II is underway in Egypt as election looms (NATIONAL POST) Michael Higgins 06/17/12) Source: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/06/16/revolution-ii-is-underway-in-egypt-as-election-looms/
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Events in Egypt this week were either a carefully staged Machiavellian coup by the military or a desperate ploy by army generals scared Islamists were about to take a stranglehold on all the reins of power.
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But it matters not whether the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) acted with extreme deliberateness or reckless carelessness, the effect will be the same — to neuter the Muslim Brotherhood.
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And while it is clear this is not the endgame — not for the military, not for the Islamists and certainly not for the revolution — the future is opaque.
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Some are raising the possibility that Egypt will turn into another Algeria. The circumstances are eerily similar.
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In Algeria in 1991, the government stepped in and cancelled elections because of the rise of the Islamists. A decade of civil war followed and left 150,000 dead.
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Other analysts say the left and the liberals, key planks in starting the revolution, could coalesce, forming a formidable opposition that could stop the Muslim Brotherhood gaining such a powerful position should elections for parliament be held again.
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And maybe — just maybe, say some experts — if that happened, then the army might allow a democracy (with a much weakened Brotherhood) to return.
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Of course, maybe the people will take to the streets and Tahrir Square again.
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Either way, Revolution II is underway in Egypt.
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From the beginning of the first revolution, there were some who predicted the military would never give up power.
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A week before Hosni Mubarak stepped down, a left-wing lawyer, Ahmed Seif al-Islam, told The Daily Telegraph a senior officer informed him they were prepared to sacrifice the president and his family.
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“The military will insist on keeping the regime,” Mr. Seif al-Islam said. “Of course, it has to make the elections semi-fair. But to be honest, there can’t be a completely free election. There’s a red line.”
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And it was Mr. Mubarak who put in place the man who was to have such a momentous impact this week.
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Three years ago, he plucked a lawyer named Farouk Sultan from his military tribunal system to be the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, reported the Telegraph.
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On Thursday, that court ruled a third of the country’s new MPs had been elected illegally and ordered parliament be dissolved. It was a massive blow to the Muslim Brotherhood, which had won 47% of the 508 seats in the assembly.
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But the court also ruled Ahmed Shafiq, a Mubarak-era general and former prime minister, could stand in a presidential election runoff Saturday and Sunday. It was another blow to the Brotherhood which was hoping its preferred candidate, Mohammed Mursi, of the Freedom & Justice Party, would have a clear run at the top job.
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In the contest between Mr. Mursi and Mr. Shafiq, no one knows who will win. The Brotherhood has tremendous ground support and can get the vote out. However, Mr. Shafiq’s strong law-and-order platform has won him many admirers, particularly outside the cities.
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The Brotherhood is hoping to salvage its position by portraying itself as the last bulwark against the ousted president’s loyalists bent on a comeback.
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At the same time it is making overtures to the military council. Mr. Mursi gave assurances he would work closely with the country’s military rulers and keep the interests of the armed forces at heart.
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“As president, they will be in my heart and will get my attention … They will never do anything to harm the nation,” he said Thursday.
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But the Brotherhood’s appeal to the military may be too late. The army now has its hands on the legislative powers and might soon have its preferred candidate as president. The military council might also appoint a panel to draft a new constitution.
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The moves have been not only a shock to the Muslim Brotherhood, but also to those who launched the revolution.
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The roots of the ruling elite were “much deeper and darker” than they initially understood, Islam Lotfy told The New York Times.
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Mr. Lofty, described as a rising star in the Brotherhood before being expelled, said, “The system was like a machine with a plastic cover, and what we did was knock off the cover.”
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Others told the Times how they had been naive, and had allowed the Brotherhood and the elite to sideline them.
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“When you think about it, the revolutionaries were never in power, so what kind of revolution is it?” Sally Moore, an Irish Egyptian leftist, told the paper.
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But the Brotherhood may have sown the seeds of its own destruction. In the early days of the revolution it was behind the people and supported Nobel Prize winner Mohammed ElBaradei in his push for the presidency.
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Later it was more concerned with grabbing power for itself.
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“They betrayed us at the first corner and continue to betray us,” Ms. Moore said.
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With the Brotherhood resurgent, the military acted.
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“The SCAF’s power grab in the final days looks more like panic than the execution of a carefully prepared master scheme,” Marc Lynch, an associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, wrote Thursday on his Foreign Policy magazine blog.
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“It likely reflected a combination of fear of rising Islamist power, self-preservation, and growing confidence in its ability to control street protests.”
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Mr. Lynch argued the military acted in “its belief that it had effectively neutered revolutionary movements and protestors. The SCAF likely believes that a renewal of massive, sustained protest is no longer in the cards through a combination of its own repression and relentless propaganda, along with the strategic mistakes by protesters themselves.
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“It doesn’t feel threatened by a few thousand isolated protesters in Tahrir, and probably is gambling that they won’t be joined by the masses that made the Jan. 25 revolution last year.”
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A similar argument was made by Hani Sabra, Mideast analyst with the Eurasia Group, who told Bloomberg News the military “believes it has the political capital to do this because most Egyptians are suffering from ‘revolution fatigue’. ”
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Meanwhile, some liberals hoped a new parliament would give them better representation. “Parliament had lost much of its stature and credibility … because of the Islamist parties’ misuse of the majority they enjoyed,” Ziad Bahaa-Eldin, a legislator from the Social Democratic Party, said on his Facebook page.
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However, Mr. Lynch said the army’s victory might only succeed in putting Mr. Shafiq on “an empty, wobbling throne,” presiding over a country in economic collapse and with no faith in the judiciary and the political process. “But it’s not the endgame,” he wrote. “It’s only the beginning of a new phase of a horribly mismanaged ‘transition’ that is coming to its well-earned end.
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“What’s next? A replay of Algeria in 1991? A return to Jan. 25, 2011? Back to 1954 [when the Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed]? A return to the petulant slow fail of latter-days Mubarak? An alien invasion using nano-weapons and transgalactic wormholes in the Pyramids?”
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National Post, with files from The Associated Press, The Daily Telegraph and Reuters (© 2012 National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. 06/17/12)
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