Thursday, June 14, 2012

Egypt Boils Over As Islamist Parliament Dissolved And Military Claims Control

Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court ruled today that the laws on parliamentary elections are invalid and that the Islamist-dominated parliament must be dissolved. In a separate ruling, the court said that officials from the Mubarak regime are allowed to run in elections, essentially legalizing former air force commander and prime minister Ahmed Shafik's candidacy and reversing a previous ruling that saw ex-Mubarak officials taken off the ballot. It's worth noting that all of the judges on the SCC are Mubarak appointees.

The military junta now ruling the country promptly claimed full legislative authority. At the esame time, they declared martial law and put back in place Egypt's hated emergency decrees from the Mubarak era.

What this is, in effect, is a military coup. It definitely means that the military junta, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will not be relinquishing power voluntarily on July 1, as they had
promised earlier. The military saw that the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi was likely to win and acted. By removing parliament the military made sure he would be isolated.

And the ruling actually puts Morsi's candidacy in jeopardy, since his nomination depended on the Muslim Brotherhood's majority on parliament...which no longer exists.

It also likely means that Shafik may have made a behind the scenes deal with his old military comrades to take over after being 'elected' if he wins the coming run off election...if that even happens. After all, Egypt had this sort of election during the Mubarak regime.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafist al-Nour party are meeting to plan their response to being ousted from power.

This could take several forms.

They could withdraw Mohamed Morsi from the election,which would leave Shafik running unopposed and would invalidate it. They might simply refuse to allow parliament to be dissolved go into the streets for massive unrest which would put them in open conflict with the junta . Or they could decide to hold their fire and simply concentrate on the next parliamentary elections.

The course they take depends on their judgment of several important factors.

First, they going to sniff around and do a reality check on how complete the junta's control of the rank and file and lower level officers is. Before they were unwilling to fire on protesters. Has that changed?

Second, they're going to carefully weigh the level of exhaustion in their followers after a long period of turmoil.

And finally, they're going to realistically assess a strategy for taking over. It's obvious the military and the old order aren't going to leave peacefully.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist elements in Egypt have achieved something a lot of observers would have thought impossible after the original Arab Spring uprising in Tahrir Square. They have used shrewd strategy and decades of accrued political muscle to change the perception of the military by average Egyptians from heroes to oppressors.

The earlier ruling giving ex-President Mubarak life instead of the gallows and the freeing of his sons was the climax of this strategy. The military junta's actions today essentially makes them Mubarak in the eyes of the Egyptian street.

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