by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 1, Rabi' al-Thani, 1434)
Even though Mohamed Mursi won the presidential elections fair and square, the losing candidates and remnants of the old regime are not willing to give up so easily. In cahoots with their foreign masters, they are busy destabilizing Egypt.
What had started with great hopes — freedom for the Egyptian people from the tyranny of Hosni Mubarak — is gradually being smothered by a motley collection of players led by remnants of the old regime and rejected politicians. They also have US and Zionist backing, two countries that were heavily involved in Egyptian affairs prior to Mubarak’s ouster. What was described as a “process” of change is being turned into a “project” that is guided, financed and manipulated by external powers.
The now routine demonstrations that disrupt daily life in Egypt are further undermining the economy already weakened by two years of turmoil. Egypt has always been dependent on foreign aid. During the Mubarak era, his thieving family and cronies siphoned off the bulk of this aid. The regime also used a combination of brutal tactics against the people and subsidies on certain essential items such as bread to keep them down. The new government elected last June and headed by President Mohamed Mursi has maintained the subsidies to cushion the poor but his government is feeling the economic pinch. Those instigating the protests are aware of this reality. The opposition’s aim is to make Egypt ungovernable, hoping that will force the army to intervene and take over. Currently, the army has not shown any such inclination but it will not stay out of the fray if there is serious economic disruption because that will undermine its privileges.
It is revealing that Mursi’s opponents are demanding he resign and hold fresh presidential elections while at the same time saying they will not participate in parliamentary elections that are expected to be held soon. Opposition figures know that Mursi and his Islamic allies will sweep parliamentary polls as they did the last time before the Mubarak era judges disbanded the assemblies. His opponents are also demanding scrapping the constitution. Beyond these negative demands whose disruptive effects are self-evident, the opposition has offered no constructive proposals. They have not said what articles of the constitution they would like to amend. Mursi has indicated that he is prepared to establish a commission that would also include opposition members to work on the proposed amendments and if consensus among the various political players were reached, these would be put to a vote in the new assembly for approval. The opponents, however, want to bypass legal procedures to get their demands approved in advance.
Mursi also faces a hostile judiciary. In fact, the old regime’s appointees are still in place whether in the police, security establishment or the judiciary. This last is playing a very dirty role trying to undermine the new government while the police, used to swagger and beating and insulting people without cause, are back to their old habits. If checked in their old ways, they refuse to maintain law and order. Thus, Mursi is caught on the horns of a dilemma. This was to be expected. As long as remnants of the old regime continue to occupy important positions even with a new president at the helm, the situation will not change. Old habits, as the saying goes, die hard. Besides, remnants of the old regime have no loyalty to the new dispensation. Unless Mursi and his party come to grips with this reality, they will continue to face endless crises in which their primary function — of serving the people — will be frustrated. Gradually the people will sour on them and turn to others that will promise them the sky but will eventually betray them exactly as the Mubarak regime did.