Egypt’s Unhappy Anniversary

Over the weekend, at least 49 Egyptians died in clashes with police while marking the anniversary of the country’s 2011 uprising.  Soon thereafter, the interim government announced that it would hold early presidential elections and that army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has been promoted to Field Marshal, paving the way for a presidential bid that most expect him to win. Bel Trew looks ahead:

The few public statements made by leading generals suggest that the army will endorse his candidacy. He can also count on popular support: the media, several grass-roots campaigns and political parties have called for him to run. A photoshopped presidential campaign poster for the general went viral minutes after the preliminary results of the referendum were released. …

If Sisi wins, he will oversee the implementation of the constitution, new draft laws and, crucially, parliamentary elections. It is likely the general will form his own party. “It’s easy to imagine a situation when Sisi’s new party sweeps the parliament, whose election will be as free and fair as the referendum,” said Hisham Hellyer of the Brookings Institution. “You won’t have ballot-stuffing because they won’t need to.”

Amid these events, Nathan Brown pins Egypt’s problems on its institutions rather than its political personalities:

Egypt’s political affliction is not one dictatorial person but a host of dictatorial institutions, and much of Egyptian society is a happy participant rather than cowering victim in the wave of repression.

Let us turn first to the Egyptian state—a set of balkanized institutions, each with its own keen sense of mission and privilege. President Adli Mansour—a man almost as genial and modest as Shahin—is no thundering Mussolini. Even military leader General ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, while powerful, shows few signs of micromanaging the Egyptian state. Instead, various institutional actors who spent years under what they came to feel was a domineering and sometimes corrupt political leadership under Mubarak, are finally free to act on their own. And each one is doing so with a vengeance.

Eric Trager stresses the complicity of the Egyptian people themselves in the endless turmoil:

Within the Beltway, Egypt’s autocratic recidivism is often blamed on Egypt’s poisonous media and draconian military-backed government, thereby casting ordinary Egyptians as passive actors in their own country’s story. But they aren’t. Time and again, critical masses of Egyptians have cast and recast their lot: first with the 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising, then with the military junta that succeeded Mubarak, then with the Muslim Brotherhood during the 2011-2012 parliamentary and presidential elections, and then with the military once again during the July 2013 uprising-cum-coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi.

In all likelihood, these critical masses of Egyptians will change their minds again, because even as the rules of Egypt’s political game have been written and rewritten repeatedly, one hard law has emerged: nothing is permanent.