Is Egypt Replacing a Dictator with an 'Electoral Dictatorship'?

Egypt’s revolution could be deemed a failure, writes Abdel Amir al-Rekabi. Protesters in the country’s squares have not dislodged military control, making President Mohammed Morsi part of an "electoral dictatorship." Only by ensuring that elections remain free and fair will Egypt’s revolution succeed.

al-monitor Supporters of President Mohammed Morsi chant pro-Morsi slogans in front of the parliament building in Cairo after his decision to recall the assembly, which was dismissed by the army, July 10, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih.

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tahrir square, tahrir, syria, russia, revolution, mohammed morsi, egypt, ahmed shafiq

Jul 27, 2012

Despite the flood of opinions and publications glorifying the Egyptian revolution, especially following the victory of Mohammed Morsi, the current situation allows us to say that after everything, the Egyptian revolution hasn’t achieved success. It may have even been a failure. In this case, measuring the success of Morsi in the elections renders our judgment correct. Morsi’s weak success was nothing victorious, given that Egypt’s president is now governing under the umbrella of the military council and with limited powers regarding critical and core sovereign portfolios. Moreover, Morsi did not achieve a victory that would make his mandate iron clad. In fact, the number of votes received by the remnants [of the Mubarak regime] was not small; it was close to the number Morsi received. That is of course only if we ignore the rumors saying that his rival Ahmed Shafiq was the actual winner, and pressing concerns related to managing the conflict forced the military to manipulate the results. 

Whether these rumors are true or false, these rumors are not in the interest of the revolution or its impetus. Furthermore, they may affect its future in terms of adapting to democracy, setting its future limits or the likelihood of it being abandoned.

Under the overall situation, it doesn’t seem that what we are going through is similar to democracy, given the silence over the complementary constitutional declaration, and the end of the sit-ins [in Tahrir Square] in return for a consensus between the military and the presidency. This approach seems to have been adopted by the new president, starting from the heresy of taking his oath of office in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court, to the implicit consent [to military rule] by cooperating to control the security situation in Egypt

We should wait to see what the elected president will do to ensure the revolution is firmly in power. Forming a bloc of participating forces in the presidency or government will set the direction of the revolution and bar to balance power. This bar would limit the power of the participating forces and adjust their actions to the policy of the state. This would reduce the power of protesters occupying Egypt’s squares by making compromises or dividing the mobilizing camp or the camp that feeds the people’s protests.  If the military successfully allies with the bloc or with some of its parts, we will be back on the path that the Mubarak regime had already tried to promote before departing office. This is when Omar Suleiman called on some forces to meet with him, and started a dialogue that couldn’t persist given the momentum of the revolution. However, the dialogue is now likely to stand up to the impetus, given that this impetus currently reflects a half-victory. The victory that was achieved on behalf on the revolution pushed the revolutionary forces and the people that they represent to consider that a gain.

All of these scenarios lack the presence of the forces backing up Ahmed Shafiq and the military. If it's true that Shafiq is thinking about establishing his party, it's more likely to occur than some people believe.  At that time, no one would have doubts that the Mubarak party, which is written here without its formal name “the national party,” would once again constitute the largest party in Egypt. This party, to some extent, would be equivalent to the combined size of all the revolution forces. If the military council, under Morsi's presidency, is able to manage the battle as it should, and succeeds in attracting some revolutionary forces to its side, no matter how few, the next round of democratic elections will certainly be in the interest of the military and the remnants.

Not to be pessimistic, let’s say that Morsi and the revolution forces turn the equation upside down and instead the Egyptian president attracts additional supporters from the Egyptian street. In this scenario, Morsi and the revolution would certainly benefit and win an easy victory in the future. However, this scenario is unlikely, and it is intuitive not to even think about it. Compared to the military, Morsi is unlikely to exploit or use his power to his and his camp’s advantages; otherwise the complementary constitutional declaration wouldn’t have been developed. Logical thinking concludes that the military is more likely to and is capable of shifting the situation in a direction that serves the army’s goals and plans.

We must examine the course of events from the start of the revolution thus far to give a final judgment about who is protecting whom, and who is seeking shelter from whom. Most important is to have a law or a constant base as a result of all this. Moving away from individual and family dictatorships in the Arab world is a major achievement in itself. However, a shift toward democracy may not been the final result like many people have imagined. It seems that so far Arab mechanisms and dynamics haven’t allowed such a shift to take place. It is feared that a shift from individual and family dictatorships toward “an extended electoral dictatorship” is a possible and likely outcome.

If that would be the case, [demonstrating in] the squares would no longer be effective, and the electoral mechanism would be the only [method of change] that could be adopted. This argument is drawn from the experience of the uprising in a country like Iraq. Since the beginning of 2011, an uprising has been ongoing. But their electoral mechanisms, defined before that date, ultimately triumphed. This law is in force in Yemen, and is about to be applicable in Libya. It also became effective in Tunisia and Egypt.

The only place where it is going to take time before the electoral mechanism prevails, and the form of dictatorship alters, is Syria. Syria is becoming a laboratory where the rules of the international modus operandi are being modified. Syria is witnessing direct Russian intervention, which is increasing according to the latest reports. Russians forces already exert a heavy influence in Syria. However, the results here would not exceed the limits of the general outcome resulting from the changes in the region, where a difficult historic achievement — whose outcomes are of a low standard — has been made. The elections took place in the Arab world, and we have stepped into the era of “electoral dictatorship.”

However, the forces of change in the Arab world still have a long way to go before they get to democracy.

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