The only real hope for Egypt is the formation of a government of national unity where the progressive forces are at the centre of the emerging political dispensation
STOP PRESS: Following mass protests, Egypt's army has ousted President Mohammed Morsi from power, placed him under house arrest, suspended the constitution and pledged to hold early elections. The top judge of Egypt's Constitutional Court, Adly Mahmud Mansour, has been sworn in as interim leader.
On June 30 opposition political forces in Egypt brought people into the streets demanding early elections and the resignation of the Muslim Brotherhood dominated government headed by President Mohamed Morsi. Despite Morsi’s efforts to defend his views through the national media, the legacy of neo-colonialism in this North African state persists, necessitating a firm break with imperialism as a pre-condition for the launching of any genuine program of national revival and development.
Yet Morsi has sought to remain within the orbit of United States dominance and influence. The domestic and foreign policy approaches by Morsi have continued along the same pattern that arose during the late 1970s when Egypt signed a separate peace treaty with the State of Israel under the mediation of President Jimmy Carter.
President Hosni Mubarak inherited this process and inevitably alienated the majority of the Egyptian people. With the uprising of early 2011, the people demonstrated their capacity to mobilize and organize against an autocratic system.
What has been lacking is the required level of political uniformity and ideological orientation that could provide a people’s roadmap into the future. Obviously the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) government of President Morsi does not have a broad outlook that is conducive to the overall unity needed to move Egypt forward.
In light of the mass demonstrations which have swept the country, the military said that if the politicians could not reach some agreement on how to resolve the crisis within forty-eight hours, they would put forward their own program for the country. Such a statement raises questions about the character of the military’s ultimatum.
The military wrote in this ultimatum that, “The Armed Forces will not be a party in the circles of politics or governance and are not willing to step out of the role defined for them by the basic ideals of democracy based on the will of the people.”
Nonetheless, at the same time the statement said: “The national security of the state is exposed to extreme danger by the developments the nation is witnessing, and this places a responsibility on us, each according to his position, to act as is proper to avert these dangers. The armed forces sensed early on the dangers of the current situation and the demands the great people have at this time.”
This same proclamation then went on to say that, “Therefore, it previously set a deadline of a week for all political forces in the country to come to a consensus and get out of this crisis. However, the week has passed without any sign of an initiative. This is what led to the people coming out with determination and resolve, in their full freedom, in this glorious way, which inspired surprise, respect and attention at the domestic, regional and international levels.”
Will the military seek to seize power as it did in February 2011 amid the mass unrest demanding the resignation of Mubarak? Or will the defense forces call for the creation of a government of national unity that could encompass wider social forces and political parties in a cabinet that would outline a series of elections and other measures to stabilize Egypt?
Moreover, would the majority of the people of Egypt accept a military seizure of power carried out under the guise of a national emergency? Could a military junta maintain the reins of the state even if it could justify such a putsch?
THE CHARACTER OF THE EGYPTIAN OPPOSITION FORCES
Egypt’s opposition political forces are by no means a cohesive group with similar ideas about governance, political economy, foreign relations and national security. Morsi has largely run his government with the assistance of the Muslim Brotherhood allied FJP as well as the Nour Party which is the political face of a large section of the Salafists.
The opposition parties and coalitions range from the more liberal and social democratic groups such as Strong Egypt, the April 6 Youth Movement, the Revolutionary Socialists, Popular Current to the Constitution Party and others. There have been various broad-based coalitions that have come together to launch mass protests and other forms of resistance but these formations are fluid and have not been able to agree upon a cohesive program.
All of the groups that consider themselves revolutionaries have opposed the notion that the military should seize power from the FJP and its allies in the government. During the period of rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), between February 2011 to June 2012, the country was marked by widespread unrest resulting in mass arrests, injuries and deaths.
It was the military which set the terms for the elections that took place after the fall of Mubarak. When the two final candidates emerged from the electoral process in 2012, one represented the defense forces, Ahmed Shafik, and Mohamed Morsi, who was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist parties.
Consequently, many of the young revolutionaries and worker organizations refused to participate in the national elections in 2012. They felt strongly that the military and the Brotherhood had dominated political life in Egypt for decades and that political space should be created for other forces to participate in a meaningful and effective fashion.
In response to the military ultimatum of July 1, a coalition of progressive organizations responded by saying no to defense forces rule in Egypt. The position of these left organizations is that they oppose both the continued rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and the possibility of a return to power by the Generals.
Activist Ingy Hamdy told Ahram Online that "The 6 April Youth Group [Ahmed Maher Front"> has made it clear that there is no turning back to pre-25 January 2011 and Mubarak rule, or to post-11 February 2011 military rule. We made this clear when we joined other political groups and parties opposed to military rule, Mubarak regime rule and Muslim Brotherhood rule." (July 1)
This same activist went on to say: "The statement by the armed forces was clear regarding what it said about giving 48 hours to political powers to reconcile or else it would introduce a political roadmap. We are totally against this; we support the role of the army as protector of our borders, our people and our national security, but we do not want to return to military rule or a political roadmap.”
Hamdy noted that it was the “political roadmap” outlined by the military in 2011 that created the conditions for the current impasse today. "The roadmap is already there; it has been provided by revolutionary youth in the form of the roadmap of the 30 June Front and the youth of the 'Rebel' campaign and 6 April."
The June 30 Front which organized the massive demonstrations over the weekend put forward a series of demands to the Morsi government. Ahram Online says that “The roadmap proposed by the 30 June Front stated that President Morsi should be replaced by the head of Egypt's High Constitutional Court; that Egypt should have an independent prime minister; and that a technocratic cabinet be appointed for six months until a new constitution is drafted, to be followed by presidential and parliamentary elections.”
Nonetheless, some of the Islamist forces that have fallen out of favor with President Morsi and his supporters are expressing mixed views on the military ultimatum. The Nour Party which was previously allied with the FJP appears to be undecided and the Wasat Party seems to be more sympathetic to the military’s position.
Nevertheless, enhancing the role of the military in the current crisis or a seizure of state power by the armed forces will not resolve the problems of the people of Egypt. It is the legacy of U.S.-dominated neo-colonial rule which is the source of the political quagmire.
The Morsi government has not put forward any ideas that would break the cycle of the decades-long alliance between Egypt, the U.S. and the State of Israel. Egypt must turn towards Africa and the progressive forces throughout the region in order to chart a real and meaningful roadmap for unity and national development.
Rather than creating further tensions in the region by breaking relations with Syria, which is under siege by U.S.-backed rebel forces, or threatening military action against Ethiopia over the use of the Nile River, the Morsi government should have pursued a policy of cooperation with Syria and Ethiopia. The only real hope for Egypt is the formation of a government of national unity where the progressive forces are at the center of the emerging political dispensation.
The formation of such a national unity government would rely on the African Union (AU) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) as a political base for guiding its foreign as well as domestic program on reconciliation. Egypt with its substantial population, the third largest in Africa, and its strategic location and resources, should move to the forefront of efforts aimed at charting an independent course for the African continent and the Middle East.
* Abayomi Azikiwe is Editor, Pan-African News Wire
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