Site Navigation

Legitimizing the Pharaoh

Low turnout gives hope, Sabahi a shame

3. June 2014
by Wilhelm Langthaler

The operation was all about generating legitimacy for the bloody military coup of last year. The junta’s methods are well known and resemble those of the decades of lead. The question is whether we are in front of an enduring Arab winter?

Everybody is conscious that the main criterion is the turn-out, as the crowning as such has been decided long before. The regime put it somewhat below 50%, which is not credible given the empty polling stations. In any case no comparison whatsoever with the sprawling elections after the fall of the last Pharaoh. A revealing measure was the sudden prolongation of the referendum for an entire day.

The methods employed by the junta are understood at once: Tight media control. Free transportation. Threats of a fine for those not casting their votes – no need to continue this list of techniques of coercion.

We should not forget that the coup was extraordinarily bloody killing thousands of protesters, filling once again the prisons and banning any democratic articulation and not only of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hundreds have been grotesquely sentenced to death in one day without trials worth this name. It is not possible to speak of democracy or democratisation while totally suppressing an important component of Egypt society, namely the Muslim Brotherhood and the wider Islamist milieu. The key question is to grant them (and together with them the entire political spectrum) democratic rights.

A huge disappointment, and at the same time an indicator of the crisis of the left, is the participation in the electoral farce of Hamdeen Sabahi, the Nasserist leader who became third in the presidential election of 2012. Many made the mistake to support the coup and interprete it as a help to a popular rebellion against the Muslim Brotherhood. With the time passing people understood, however, that the heavy-handed repression of the army was turning against the entire opposition trying to eradicate the gains of the Arab spring all together. As an example may serve the April 6 movement which now opposes Sissi. Even if only few dared to campaign for boycott, many people withdrew into passivity as fear reigns again.

We do not believe that Sissi enjoys strong popular support as the hype created by the regime tries to suggest. All the insupportable problems of the Mubarak era remain in place without any hope of amelioration let alone resolution. But he can maintain power because the opposition has manoeuvred itself into a blind alley it seems unable to leave.

The contradiction between Islamism and the secular left has been revealed to be deeper than with the old regime respectively.

We have often used the model of the triangle constituted by a) elites and their old regime, b) Islamism, c) the Tahrir left. From the very beginning we have been convinced that only by building a complicated and arduous co-operation between Islamism and the democratic movement the old elites can be really defeated. At no stage of the Arab spring this variant came close to reality.

The only hope in this sense is a coalition between Aboul-Fotouh, the more liberal break-away leader of the Brotherhood, and some leftist splinters opposing the military regime. But this flower still has to show whether it is really able to bloom.

The tragic thing is that Egypt is the leading country of the Arab would and wields decisive influence across the entire Sunni world. For the time being it builds a heavy road bloc on the way towards more democratic and social rights for the Arab popular masses and their struggle against the western capitalist order and its local henchmen.

It is not by accident that the western governments kept totally quiet which means tacit but de facto support for Sissi.