In a country where the embers of revolution are
still glowing, you would assume that a presidential election would produce a
revolutionary-appearing government. Not so in Egypt. The revolutionaries
who toppled the hated dictator Mubarak will have zero representation in the
upcoming runoff election for president.
Those who opposed the revolution, however, are
well represented. The runoff election features Ahmed Shafiq, the dictator's former Prime Minister who remains
a military strongmen. Shafiq's presence in the election is a stark reminder
that the revolution's goals have yet to be accomplished.
The other non-revolutionary presidential
contender is Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim
Brotherhood . The leadership
of the Muslim Brotherhood stayed
quiet during the initial phase of the revolution until their youth wing dragged them into the fray. The leadership has since pretended to be an ally of the revolution, but their fake
revolutionary credentials have been exposed several times since winning a large
chunk of parliamentary seats, steadily
eroding their popularity.
For example, Egypt's executive
power still consists of a cabinet handpicked by the military, a fact that began
to fan the revolution's hot coals, re-igniting mass protests. The Muslim
Brotherhood stayed silent -- as before -- until the heat once again forced them
into action: the Brotherhood shut down parliament, demanding that the army's
cabinet step down. But the military responded with inaction and threatened to
shutdown parliament permanently. The Brotherhood responded by compelling
the re-opening of parliament, and the cabinet remained in place.
The Brotherhood is now correctly viewed by many
as being somewhat subservient to the military, a role their leadership played
pre-revolution. This exposure accounts for the drop in their popularity that
resulted in their earning only 25 percent of first round Presidential votes,
after winning 47 percent of the Parliamentary seats in November/December.
Regardless of which candidate
wins the election, the military could very well remain the real power in the
country. This is because Egypt still lacks a constitution; the new
president will literally have zero power until
one is created. If the military's candidate loses they will fight to limit the
president's power. Many of the more honest contenders for president have
already boycotted the election for this reason.
A Constituent Assembly had
been bureaucratically set up by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament
to write a constitution, but other parties boycotted it because of the
Brotherhood's overwhelming power over the proceedings. Then Egypt's
military-dominated courts dissolved the Assembly
, probably to keep the Brotherhood's
power in check (the military and the Brotherhood have a love-hate
relationship, relying on each other as props while simultaneously vying for
The pathetic state of Egypt's
democracy led the spokesman for the military's candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, to
declare "the revolution has ended." But he has spoken too
soon. When stripped down to its essentials, a revolution is the majority
of working people actively engaged in politics. And because the coming
election will not allow this majority an avenue to be engaged in politics, they
will likely continue their political engagement in the streets.
Inevitably, however, the
revolutionaries will learn that it's not enough to oust Mubarak; a positive
vision must replace the dictator, lest representatives of the old regime attempt
to replace the dictator with his clone. Hopefully, the revolutionaries will
create a vision that unites them against their opponents, while organizing
themselves as a cohesive, powerful social force that can withstand the
organized power of the past, complete with inspiring ideas capable of mobilizing
working people and truly transforming society, as opposed to a mere shuffling
at the top.
The Egyptian ruling class is
consciously using these elections to channel the revolution's energy into a
dead-end. This is a timeless revolution-killing strategy: the
ruling class calls for an election before the revolutionaries have had the time
to properly organize themselves, leaving the election to be won by those groups
-- The Muslim Brotherhood and the army in this case -- who were organized pre-revolution. The
winners of revolutions are the organized or the wealthy, often times both.
Egyptian society will refuse
to remain calm after these elections; there are too many economic and social
problems that remain unfixed post-revolution, most notably high unemployment
within an economy in shambles.
The military government has
already asked the U.S.-dominated International Monetary Fund for a $3.2 billion loan , which will not be
finalized until after the elections. The delay was intentional, since the
conditions of the debt deal will inevitably include austerity -- cuts to basic
social programs, elimination of gas and food subsidies, combined with
privatizations of the public sector and other anti-worker policies.
Like the revolutionaries in
Greece, Egyptians will fight against austerity while fighting for a truly
democratic Constituent Assembly; either issue by itself could re-spark the
still smoldering revolution. But democracy will have a new meaning for
Egypt's revolutionaries: the abstract ideal will be tossed aside in favor of a
democracy of economic and social equality, requiring that the economic and
social power of Egypt's old rulers be smashed.
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org
Shamus Cooke is a social service worker and activist living in Portland Oregon.