By Iftekhar A Khan
June 12, 2014 “ICH” – The outcome of the election in Egypt hasn’t surprised anyone. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, former chief of mukhabarat (intelligence) and defence minister, has taken over as Egypt’s president.
Between Hosni Mubarak’s ouster and Sisi’s ascension to the throne was a short spell of an elected government led by Muhammad Morsi. Morsi had yet to celebrate the first anniversary of his elected government when the powerful Egyptian generals sent him and his government packing.
The Morsi government was a non-starter from day one. The US could never tolerate an Islamist government just across the border from Israel. The US has been giving $1.3 billion mainly military aid to the Egyptian armed forces since the Camp David Peace Accord in 1979. The US Congress and the Pentagon, according to defence analyst, Eric Margolis, “…are squarely behind Egypt’s military regime, as they were behind Mubarak. Egypt, and its US guided armed force, are a pillar of American Mideast Raj.” As an aside, Margolis’ book ‘American Raj’ is worth a read.
Whether the Morsi-led civilian government in Egypt’s recent history was too inept to remain in power or the generals too ambitious to grab power will remain debateable. The truth is that the civilians had never had a taste of power and the Egyptian army never of being out of power. Maybe both felt out of place on these uncharted courses.
After deposing the Morsi government, the immediate step Gen Sisi took was to declare all those opposing his rule ‘terrorists’ and meting out to them long sentences after summary trials. In many cases, thousands of Morsi supporters sentenced to long prison terms were never produced in court. Most of them will likely die in the dark dungeons of the notorious Egyptian prisons.
According to a Pew report, when the generals struck 63 percent of Egyptians favoured the Muslim Brotherhood, 52 percent approved of the Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party, and 53 percent backed Morsi, who had won the presidency a year earlier with 52 percent of the vote.
But Morsi’s popularity indicator of 52 percent is no match to Sisi’s 97 percent. It’s puzzling who the unlucky three percent were who failed to admire the leadership qualities of their redeemer.
However, there was an air of euphoria among the select audience when Gen Sisi took oath as Egypt’s president: “I swear by God to protect the republican system, to respect the constitution and the law, to safeguard the people’s interests, and to preserve the independence of the nation and the unity of its lands.”
Granting the ultimate accolade to the new president, Maher Sami – Head of the Constitutional Court – portrayed him as a “rebel soldier and revolutionary” and no ordinary coup maker.
The state-run Egyptian newspaper – al-Akhbar – went a step further to laud Gen Sisi as “first patriotic elected president”, as if the old pharaoh Hosni Mubarik, who is marking time in the VIP suite of a military hospital, was “unpatriotic elected president”.
Coup-makers always have their admirers or sycophants, if you will, to keep them in a buoyant mood. But when they are out of power and look back for support, they only find a few Facebook junkies writing blurbs for them.
Some armies are addicted to the trappings of power and pelf. They will either find an excuse or fabricate a situation to kick out the democratically elected governments. A successful military coup took place on May 22 in Thailand for the twelfth time.
Thailand’s armed forces under the façade ‘National Peace and Order Maintaining Council’ sacked the government and took control of the country. It was nothing new for the people who were used to TV screens going blank and martial music blaring. In the meantime, welcome back and happy crowning, Gen Sisi.
The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore. Email: email@example.com