Egypt’s Critical Moment and Election Scenarios

Islamist-dominated Parliament Dissolved:
By Abdelrahman Rashdan
Political Science Researcher

A “soft coup” by SCAF against Egypt Parliament - Latuff
A “soft coup” by SCAF against Egypt Parliament. (Carlos Latuff)
Egypt’s Critical Moment and Election Scenarios

The court ruling to dissolve Egypt’s first elected government after the revolution and to keep Mubarak’s last prime minister in the presidential race proves several important points:

  • The old regime is the one still in control of the country.
  • The Muslim Brotherhood is getting politically weaker.
  • The revolution is on the verge of collapse and returning to square one.

In his Foreign Policy Magazine’s blog, Marc Lynch wrote on Thursday, “Weeks before the SCAF's scheduled handover of power, Egypt now finds itself with no parliament, no constitution (or even a process for drafting one), and a divisive presidential election with no hope of producing a legitimate, consensus-elected leadership.”

The main problem Egypt’s revolution is facing is the fact that it surrendered itself to the old regime and asked it to manage its march towards freedom. Sarcastically enough, even after the court decision, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) decided to stay in the presidential race against Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s minister of civil aviation for nine years and last prime minister under whose supervision the notorious “Camel battle” took place during the January 25th eighteen days of the revolution.

Fighting in the Opponent’s Backyard

A battle with such an armed opponent cannot be fought in the opponent’s backyard and under the protection of his own armed guards, and then ask him to fight with honor.
Crowning one-and-half years of revolution management, the decision to dismantle the parliament returns all powers into the hands of the SCAF. The “so-called transition,” as Lynch called it, was in fact a training camp for the old regime to master the management of the different ideologies and groups that emerged after the revolution. What made it a relatively easy game for the old regime is that the revolution got a head that is familiar and well-known for it. The election of the MB as the parliament’s majority solved the main problem that the regime faced in the January 25th revolution, which is the absence of a leader to negotiate with. The MB is a very well read and understood movement by the old regime; the regime has been dealing with it and profiling its leaders and members for decades.

Thus, the reaction of the MB is more or less expected by the old regime, unlike the revolution. And, sadly enough, the MB did not change the tactics and ways it used under Mubarak; the same leaders, same decision-making process and the same priorities, which means decisions within an expected pattern that the old regime can plan against.

In the hands of the old regime are the media, intelligence, security, economic resources and all other tools at the disposal of any standing government. A battle with such an armed opponent cannot be fought in the opponent’s backyard and under the protection of his own armed guards, and then expect him to fight with honor. The regime has been successful in influencing public opinion and playing upon the MB’s mistakes to turn the table against, thus discrediting the movement and dispersing the revolutionary front from behind it.

The MB has now lost what it once thought to be an earned solid victory over the old regime. It lost the parliament, lost its control over the constitutional council and lost a big portion of its popularity. And, again, this is due to its miscalculation and allowing its opponent to draw its path to freedom.

Presidential Election Scenarios

The main problem Egypt’s revolution is facing is the fact that it surrendered itself to the old regime and asked it to manage its march towards freedom. (Reuters)
Standing only one day away from the presidential elections, there are five expected scenarios ahead:
  1. Elections: Morsi wins with backing from the pro-revolution groups
  2. Elections: Morsi wins with no backing from the pro-revolution groups
  3. Elections: Shafiq wins with strong polarization from pro-revolution groups against the MB
  4. Elections: Shafiq wins follwed by unity among pro-revolution groups and the MB
  5. No elections and recreation of the revolution.

The first scenario is the best one in case the elections successfully take place. This scenario will unify Egyptians against the old regime and give a big boost for the new president to fight forcefully to end the control that the old regime has been having over the country. However, if Morsi wins and the other political groups turn into the opposition, the second scenario, this will certainly weaken the MB and the revolution much vis-à-vis the old regime which is still controlling the keys of the government’s executive branch. It will leave the MB to defend itself front three fronts; from the political opposition and from the old regime that will be fighting from behind the curtain. In addition, the masses will be expecting a certain performance from the executive branch in terms of services and goods while the MB is schackled with restraints iaffecting its ability to access resources and act freely by the old regime.

The MB has now lost what it once thought to be an earned solid victory over the old regime.

The third scenario, Shafiq wins with strong polarization against the MB, will be the worst scenario against the revolution. It will signify the full return of a healthy refreshed old regime with sixteen months of anti-revolution training. Shafiq will be expected to acquire his legitimacy and popularity through using all the resources under the disposal of the old regime and its connections abroad to provide food, security and services; something that Egyptians have been complaining about since the beginning of the revolution in January 2011. Gradually, with the assistance of media, the MB and the revolutionaries will reach a level of low popularity that would allow Shafiq to crush them easily with little public discontent.

However, if Shafiq wins, the fourth scenario, while the MB is able to forge unity with the other pro-revolution groups, this will lead to reinvigorating the revolutionary camp, rendering them an opportunity to regain their regain the mass support, which will signify the return of the January 25th revolution. Such will cancel the SCAF’s legitimacy and control over the transitional period. Yet, this scenario carries some challenges because Shafiq will be just elected with a majority of Egyptians wanting him as a president, which will portray the MB and the other groups as turning against the democratic process and rejecting the will of the majority of the Egyptians.

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Finally, the last scenario is based on the rejection of the MB to continue in the elections and the rejection of the path drawn by the SCAF. This will right away withdraw all the legitimacy Egyptians have given to the SCAF throughout the transitional period and return the revolution to square one, back in Tahrir. The major challenge here Egyptians will face will be how to elect a unifying leadership in Tahrir and how will that leadership be able to negotiate with the SCAF to push it off the civilian state and back to its barracks.

The night of the court decision Morsi commented saying, “The timing of the ruling is not suitable as people are ahead of the presidential elections run-off vote... However, it should be respected.” The MB, then, chose the path of elections and what remains is to wish they would be able to unify Egyptians around them and win the elections.

Related Links:
Reorganizing Egypt's Political Alliances
Mubarak PM in Polls, Parliament Dissolved
"We Egyptians," No More?
Egypt's Best President?
Egypt's Presidential Elections: Don't Hold Breath
Abdelrahman Rashdan is a political science researcher and commentator specialized in national security and the Middle East.

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