May 26, 2012

Egypt's Revolution Enters New Phase

The ascension of Ahmed Shafiq to Egypt's presidential runoff has triggered an uproar in revolutionary circles. Allowed to run after being previously disqualified for his service to Hosni Mubarak's, the state-supported Shafiq grabbed 24.9% of the vote to pull within points of Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's backup candidate. Tarek Khouli, head of the April 6 democratic movement, spoke for many revolutionaries when she called the results "depressing." Another member of the popular opposition, the Free Egyptians Party's Ahmed Khairy, described the upcoming runoff as the "worst-case scenario" for a new Egypt. Mohamed ElBaradej, the former IAEA chief and moderate, predicted chaos two days before Egyptians went to the polls, Tweeting that the revolutionaries are stuck "between a rock & a hard place." 

"The revolution has ended," Ahmed Sarhan, Shafiq's spokesman triumphantly announced on Thursday night. 

As dispirited and out-organized as they are in comparison to established power sources, Egypt's revolutionaries still understand that their struggle doesn't end at a particular point in time. They will certainly never quit just because Shafiq, a former air marshall and Mubarak's final prime minister, says so. Only after its goals are fulfilled or its members are crushed does a revolution begin to recede back underground, and liberation movements often resurface if their causes are left unresolved. Revolution pits a given populace within a tug of war that doesn't end until one side gives up completely, possibly long after it has been dragged over the battle line. Egypt's revolution is neither over or beginning anew - it is simply continuing. 

In the immediate future, the revolutionaries must confront and survive the ugly reality standing before them. An iceberg of counterrevolutionary pressure is obstructing their movement towards a democratic Egypt, but some blame can be traced back to their inability to field their own candidate or rally behind a placeholder. Looking over the exit results, Khairy found solace in the 50% of voters who shunned Morsi and Shafiq for more moderate candidates, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh. He also believes that some votes for Shafiq were cast out of spite for the Brotherhood. Many oppositional actors took a similar reading; Sabbahi spokesman Hossam Mounis said "the results reflect that people are searching for a third alternative, those who fear a religious state and those who don't want Mubarak's regime to come back." 

However Sabbahi and Abolfotoh's split (an estimated 39% of the vote) has cost the entire revolutionary opposition to short-term. 

"It is not the peoples' problem that candidates not associated with the old regime split their votes," says Wael Ghoneim, a Google executive that rose to prominence during the revolution's initial explosion. "We should blame Sabbahi and Abul-Fotouh because both of them failed to correctly assess and estimate the current political situation. Each one of them opted to continue the presidential race alone." 

Making matters slightly more confusing - the revolutionaries can be easily overpowered but not fooled - Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood are both gunning for their hearts and minds. Widely untrusted by Egypt's progressive and secular forces because of its independent actions and cooperation with the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), the Brotherhood nevertheless possesses an argument that could win in the moment. Essam el-Erian, vice president of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), positioned his organization as a revolutionary vanguard and urged Egyptians to "bring the country into unity in order to save the revolution and the blood that has been sacrificed." The Brotherhood is expected to reach out to Sabbahi and Abolfotoh's supporters in an attempt to outflank Shariq and the SCAF. 

"There are relentless efforts to restore the Mubarak regime, but the people and the revolutionaries will not allow them to do so," the Brotherhood said on its Twitter account. "Our goal is to create a united national front representing all stakeholders to stop Shafiq." 

Meanwhile Shafiq declared the revolution "stolen" by the Brotherhood before ending it himself. He claims that his platform "is about the future" while the Brotherhood seeks to establish "an Islamic empire," which "is not what (the youth groups) called for." Of course they haven't asked for him either, preferring to use him as a shoe target instead. Throughout his campaign, Shafiq has vilified the Brotherhood and revolutionaries alike for destabilizing the country and hijacking power, vowing to restore order in the process. His public promises and information manipulation indicate that he will lie, steal, corrupt and force his rule on what was supposed to be a new, democratic Egypt. Adhering to the nature of modern democracy, this dilemma has already coerced some members of Egypt's liberal movement to throw their support behind the lesser of two evils. 

The revolutionaries must now evolve their strategy and stick together heading into the runoff. Division is the lifeblood of counterrevolutionary forces. Amer El-Wakil, senior coordinator of the Egyptian Revolutionary Alliance, succinctly described their minimal options and the inherent risks of revolutionary action: "If we take to the streets they will accuse us of rebelling against democracy." Khouli said that "many revolutionaries are thinking of boycotting the runoff," but this decision must be accompanied by a comprehensive political message aimed at the average Egyptian and international community. They cannot be outmaneuvered and divided twice in a matter of weeks. If those Egyptians that voted for Sabbahi or Abolfotoh concede their immediate disadvantage and pursue a more realistic option of blocking Shafiq with Mosri, perhaps they can sign a public accord with the Brotherhood to generate leverage and establish the preconditions for future protests. 

Forming genuine political parties is imperative to their long-term survival.

Egypt's revolutionary situation, though presently dire, has yet to reach a doomed end. This conclusion will only be true if Egyptians surrender, which they have not. One or more decades may be necessary to flush out the old regime, establish a working relationship with Islamist parties, and contain the SCAF's political and economic ambitions. The immediate hardship and suffering that has followed Mubarak's collapse has created a legitimate urgency to "finish" Egypt's revolution, but its leaders and participants must accept the long-term nature of asymmetric struggle. 

Their response to the country's looming runoff will have a greater effect on the revolution's outcome than Friday's results.

1 comment:

  1. There might be an internal affairs and an external affairs government working as one.
    The M/B would get the streets, while former Mubarak people would get foreign affairs.