Mon 18 Jun 2012
The polling is over in Egypt, but the dust has not yet settled. Given the simoon of recent political events, it is not likely to settle soon. Unofficial tallies place the Muslim Brotherhood backed candidate, Mohammed Morsi, with the lead. But the official results will not be released until June 21. Yet, it is possible to ask if there can be any real winner, since the ruling military council has ensured that it will continue to call the shots and ride oversight on any new government. The stage is now set for either a confrontation between supporters of the Brotherhood and the military or a marriage of convenience. I suspect the latter. The military is not about to lose power, not has it gambled away its prestige by engaging in ruthless slaughter as has happened in Syria.
Egypt, as most people know even if they only read their King James Bible, has a long history. Relics of the pharaohs dot the landscape; the pharaohs were gods on earth, the absolute dictators of their day, and they generally got along fine with the religious framers. When Akhenaten tried to go against the grains of the gods and call for the worship of one God, Aten, it was a short-lived moment. The rulers in the Islamic era were also not on the side of democracy. When the Mamluks, foreign mercenaries who wreaked havoc on the locals, took over in the 13th century, they played the religion game and adopted devout-sounding names, but their lust was for power and revenues and not to glorify Allah. It is tempting to view the continuing role of Egypt’s military as a Mamluk ploy, only from within. The military today is thoroughly Egyptian and has vast economic assets as well as the ability to channel politics.
The Brotherhood has been careful up to this point to target leaders, such as Mubarak, rather than the institution of the military. Should Morsi be declared the victor, I suspect he will not challenge the military but play the role they will allow him to play. This is probably the best course for Egypt. The dream of a secular, democratic state emulating the West was absurd from the start, a CNN-sensationalism that misread anger in the streets as a political revolution. Egypt will have a new balance of power. The military will prevent the country from becoming an Iran, a situation as absurd to imagine as it becoming a Sweden, and Morsi will no doubt whittle away the culture of corruption in which millions of Egyptian pounds are funneled into the bank accounts of government officials.
There is no winner, but there is change in the air. And finally there is a situation where the Brotherhood has to put up or shut up. They gained followers by challenging the arrogance of past leaders, but now there must be some progress made in alleviating the dire economic conditions in the country. The most obvious path is to once again make Egypt a major tourist destination. The Brotherhood, unlike the Taliban, does not disdain its ancient past; its leaders may speak out against capitalist usury, but the tinkle of dollars and euros is still music in their ears.
If you are not sure what the future holds for Egypt, just ask the sphinx. He has seen more than all the current pundits could ever imagine.
Daniel Martin Varisco
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