Probably the most important analysis I have read so far on the uprising in Egypt. Must read.
Probably the most important analysis I have read so far on the uprising in Egypt. Must read.
Earlier this year, the Muslim Brotherhood announced that it was reneging on its promise not to field a candidate in the 2012 presidential election, held this week, arguing that it had been forced to seek executive power. The Brotherhood said that the parliament, in which it won a plurality of seats in early 2012, had no real authority. Even after the parliamentarians were seated, the military-led Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) retained the power to nominate the cabinet, and the generals continually intervened in the process of constitution drafting. There was something to Brotherhood’s point: days before the presidential election, Egypt’s highest court, headed by an appointee from the era of former President Hosni Mubarak, dissolved the legislature.
With the parliament losing power by the day, the presidency looked like a last refuge for the Brotherhood. And its candidate, Muhammad Mursi, appears to have won in a closely fought race. If the initial results hold up—at the time of this writing, the Electoral Commission is still reviewing the more than 400 appeals filed by the two campaigns—the victory will be in name only. Despite gaining executive authority in principle, Mursi will have little power in practice. After months of subtler maneuvering, the military did away with the charade of a democratic transition in a series of power grabs that bookended the presidential vote. The first salvo was the re-imposition of martial law on June 13. Then, just as the polls were closing on June 17, the generals issued a supplemental constitutional declaration that granted them legislative authority and reinforced their role in the drafting of a permanent constitution. Not to be reined in, the brass also exempted itself from civilian oversight, giving itself the right to appoint and promote its own leadership, manage its own economic projects, and conclude arms deals. Finally, on June 18, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi announced the reestablishment of a national defense council, which puts the generals firmly in charge of Egypt’s national security policy.
The Brotherhood now faces a choice. It can seat Mursi and continue to legitimate a post-Mubarak transition that seems designed to advance the narrow interests of Egypt’s officer corps. Or it can return to the streets with the aim of unseating the military council.
Neither option offers the Brotherhood much benefit. Should Mursi take the oath of office as planned, it is unclear what authority he would actually have. The Egyptian military has already said that there will be no new parliamentary elections until a permanent constitution is drafted. The generals refuse to commit to a firm timeline, saying only that they hope to have a new constitution within four and a half months and a new parliament seated before the end of 2012. Operating in the absence of a permanent constitution and without a legislature, Mursi would have no authority to carry out the program of Islamic “renaissance” on which he ran, nor would he have any institutional allies. The ruling generals and the judiciary have shown no interest in Islamist-led change.
Moreover, should Mursi take up his position as the nominal president he will be exposing the Brotherhood to the familiar critique of intihaziya (opportunism. Many Egyptians already believe that the Brotherhood is happy to accommodate a military state when it means self-preservation, or when it gives them the opportunity to sideline their ideological competitors. In fact, this was the group’s pattern in the early 1950s and again during the 1970s, when the Brotherhood allowed itself to be used by the government as a tool to balance the secular left. The inclination toward intihaziya was visible in the run-up to the 2011-12 parliamentary elections, too. As the revolutionary groups battled security forces outside the Interior Ministry on the eve of the vote, the Brotherhood urged restraint. The fact that it then won a plurality reinforced the feeling that the group puts its political fortunes ahead of its principles.
On the other hand, should Mursi foreswear his post as the first freely elected president of Egypt after Mubarak, and the Brotherhood return to the streets, they may find that the moment for demonstrations has already passed. Sixteen long months after Mubarak was ousted, the star of the revolutionary youth has fallen considerably. Ordinary Egyptians appear weary of further unrest. Evidence of their exhaustion: only half of eligible voters turned out for the presidential runoff election, down considerably from the parliamentary elections. And around 48 percent of those who did show up voted for the stability candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, who did not bother to hide his connections to the previous regime. Egypt’s dismal economy exacerbates the fatigue; real per capita GDP contracted throughout 2011, and everyday Egyptians are feeling the pinch…
(Source : rand.org)
You know, when you wake up one morning and you see that David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and Bernard Henri-Levy are on the same side as you are, you should realize right away that there is something wrong. When you see bearded men chanting Vive La France, Vive Sarkozy and taking pictures alongside Henri-Levy and the French flag, you know for sure that there is something terribly out of place here. The only thing left was Sarkozy to shout AllahuAkbar.
- Jahanzeb Hussain
… the other lesson of the Arab Spring is that the image which was being presented in the French media – or the Western media in general – of these countries has once again proven to be false. The image that the French media was trying to create of these revolutions reveals one of the facets of the Western ideological construction of the Orient. Both the Left and the Right celebrated the Spring as an event that marks the end of the difference between Us and Them. One could notice this at the annual Fete de l’Humanite as well. The precise image is that They are finally liberation themselves from their religion and culture to become like US; women are taking off the scarves (the West desperately wants to liberate the women of those who resist its hegemony); They are, at last, entering the world by accepting the West and not rejecting it, especially ending their incomprehensible hostilities towards Israel. The image of the Bad Arabwas gone and since, there were not anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans during the uprisings, the Good Arab had finally appeared.
However, this Orientalization is hopelessly empty because none of this is relevant for the people of the Arab countries. The uprisings are in the name of dignity, respect and freedom, instead of Islam. But what explains the electoral success of groups like Enahada and the Muslim Brotherhood is that, given the corrupt and opaque political and economic systems of North African and the Middle East, Islamistgroups are the only available outsiders and challengers to the status quo. Another important reason for the success of Enahda and the Muslim Brotherhood is that they talk in the language of Islam which has resonance among the population, since Islam promises a break from the colonial past, a return to the culture of the forefathers, as well as a chance for a new beginning. Thus, Islam is a part of identity politics and not theocracy because Arab societies have been going through a process of secularization for a considerable amount of time, therefore there’s absolutely no possibility of a theocracy in any of these countries. And those who are in the realm understand how important it is to talk in the language of Islam. It’s only Europe and North America – and a few rich Arab elites – who are outside of this realm. So it can be seen that the understanding of Islam for the Arabs has nothing to do with the ideologized Western perception of this religion. Furthermore, it’s imperative that Islam is allowed to be expressed because if the Islamists are constrained by the West then their expression will not be progressive and will become like that of Hamas.
(Source : collateraldamagemagazine.com)
There are three characteristics of the Arab Spring. First, one has to look at the relation between work and capital. A large mass of Arab population, especially the youth, are unemployed. Contrary to the Arab countries, Europe was able to absorb its youth bulge of post-WWII because the continent had an active industrial policy. In France, the population benefited from this period which is called Les Trente Glorieuses – the glorious 30 years of state-planned economic development – but the Middle East and North Africa haven’t had such a period.
The second characteristic is that many Arab countries were forced by the IMF to cut their social budgets. Moreover, the agriculture sector of these countries was privatized. One of the consequences of this was that there was a massive immigration from the periphery to the center. To give an example, 50% of the population in the revolt areas of Syria is from the countryside. People are forced to leave their farms for the cities, but they can’t find jobs in the cities because there are none.
The third characteristic is the high rate of population growth – 8% in many Arab countries – which their economy is unable to absorb. When you talk to the people from the World Bank, they mention youth unemployment. But nobody asks what kind of a situation the employed are in. Since the public sector is being dismantled under the directives of international financial institutions, 70% of the work is in the informal sector. Also, those who are self-employed are considered employed. Therefore, Mohammad Bouazizi – the young Tunisian fruit vendor who set himself alight, sparking the Arab Spring – belonged to the category of the employed.
The employed don’t have social security either. Previously, Arab countries used have a helpful state, which included free health care, but basic services were privatized as a result of the structural changes imposed on their economies by the IMF. Even in public hospitals, there are different procedures for those who can pay and those who can’t; and those who can pay receive better services.
One of the biggest reasons why the population of these countries was able to hold on is due to foreign remittance, which made up 20% to 30% of the economy. However, the global financial crisis had an adverse effect on foreign remittance and many people saw their hopes evaporate as a result.
(Source : collateraldamagemagazine.com)
By Jahanzeb Hussain
The most revealing position, however, is that of Iran. For many, this would be surprising, especially for those who read mainstream Western press, but the Iranians were ready to end their alliance with Bashar Al Assad. Iran started to establish links with the Syrian opposition in October last year; but as soon as it did so, the US pushed the United Nations to re-open Iran’s nuclear dossier and the following month the International Atomic Energy Agency published a harsh report on Iran’s uranium enrichment program. In face of renewed American pressure, Iran had no choice but to back off and, as self-defense, maintain its alliance with Assad. This shows that there is no Shia marriage between Iran and the Assads, but if the US plays the nuclear card then Iran is left with little option.
Mr. Lacroix stated that in fact the army was also opposed to Mubarak, especially his son Gamal Mubarak. This was not because of revolutionary reasons, but because Gamal, along with his young CEO friends, wanted to alter the structure of the economy and introduce changes which would undermine the army’s hold on the Egyptian economy. The military feared the Gamal Boys and, when the opportunity came – thanks to the Arab Spring – they used it as a cover to carry out an internal coup d’état. This is the reason why the army didn’t open fire against the protestors at Tahrir Square. But the army’s support for the uprisings doesn’t go further than that.
Another important enjeux is the election itself. Tahrir square has its own two candidates. One is an ex member of the Muslim Brotherhood who is now very popular among young activists in the Egyptian streets. The other is a former Salafist.
However, the Muslim Brotherhood and the army are in the same camp when it comes to picking a candidate. They both support Amr Musa, the former finance minister under Mubarak. He is not only close to the system but if he is named candidate, this could see a tactical alliance between the Brotherhood and the military. Will this be durable alliance or just a short-term calculation? The Muslim Brotherhood is not naïve when it comes to its relations with the military establishment, because they remember their experience under General Nasser – the Brotherhood supported Nasser but when he came to power, he turned his back on them and jailed the Muslim Brotherhood.
In Algeria, after the independence, the FLN considered itself to be the only master of the country. Also, at that time the Soviet and Stalinist model was very attractive for the newly independent countries: one party and one ideology. The authoritarian tendencies of FLN were evident even during the war of independence. It ruthlessly massacred all its opponents, including lots of youths who were participating in guerilla warfare, as well as the partisans of Messali Hadj. Even today the remnants of the old-guard of the FLN are holding power. Bouteflika became the interior minister immediately after independence. In fact, this old-guard is almost at the end of its biological life. The great question for Algeria is what comes after that. But after the civil war and hundreds of thousands of deaths, people are afraid of the future. They are scared of any upheaval.
Collateral Damage: Why has the question of relations between civilizations been raised in the French electoral campaign? Why did the UMP extend the anti-immigrant discourse to the relations between civilization when normally this discourse is centered on economic and security issues? Is it likely to have adverse effects on the foreign relations of France? France is generally perceived in the Muslim world as the most accommodating of the Western countries (such as its historical position on the Palestinian issue, Bosnia etc…). Can you imagine that the extreme-right in France will take Saudi Arabia to task for not respecting women’s rights? If the UMP wins the upcoming election, will this issue of civilizations have an impact on French relations with countries that apply the Sharia such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Pakistan? Will it stop, for example, selling weapons to them or end its support of the existing regimes there?
Anouar Benmalek: There is logic in this type of discourse. There is a great reason. This is the first time in recent French history that the incumbent president, according to all the opinion polls, is set to loose in the next presidential elections. There is a state of panic in the ruling party. It is in this state of panic that Claude Guéant has been assigned the mission of attracting the votes of that 15-16 % of the electorate which is congenitally xenophobic. For electoral purposes, Nicolas Sarkozy has shed all his pretentions to be a president open to new ideas. He is a very pragmatic person. After his election in 2007, he tried to seduce liberal and even left-wing citizens by co-opting people like Bernard Kouchner. He took Rachida Dati, who is of Algerian origin, and gave her the Ministry of Justice, which is a key ministry. But now, it is time for him to rely on certain of his close advisors who, in fact, are of the extreme-right soul. This is a very opportunist maneuver, because by his life-style and morals, he is very far from the traditional conservative and moralist right-wingers in France. If he wins, he can very well try to cultivate again the image of a President who is open to new ideas. These electoral tactics would not bind him when it comes to foreign affairs. Despite the vehement anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, the main concern of the voters is the economy and unemployment. So in the end this rhetoric carries little weight with the majority of voters in France.
Check out Anouar Benmalek’s interview for this month’s version of my e-zine. Anouar Benmalek is a French writer of Algerian origin and he has been compared to Faulkner and Camus.
Discontent in some provinces in Saudi Arabia, notably the Shi`i dominated Eastern Province, have been brewing for some time as a result of living conditions, other forms of discrimination, and demands to release prisoners of conscience.
Saudi Arabia will be the main prize of the Arab Spring.