People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 26

July 01, 2012



Egypt: Arduous Struggle Ahead


THE candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom & Justice Party, Mohamed Morsi, has been elected president of Egypt, defeating Ahmad Shafiq, the candidate of the old Mubarak regime and an armyman. Morsi won narrowly, getting 51.7 per cent of the vote to Shafiq’s 48.2 per cent.


Before the results were announced there were fears that the counting procedures would be manipulated to ensure Shafiq’s victory. In the event, Morsi was finally announced as the victor. But the first democratic election for the president has been overshadowed by ominous moves. The parliament, which was elected between November 2011 and March 2012, has been dissolved by the Constitutional Court. The parliament was to have adopted the new constitution. Soon after, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which runs the country, issued a supplementary constitutional declaration which has curtailed the powers of the future president and armed the SACF with powers outside the democratically elected bodies. By this “soft coup,” the president will not be the commander of the armed forces. The army can step in to curb internal unrest and has been given arbitrary powers to arrest and search.


The presidential contest between a candidate of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and a candidate of the old regime posed serious difficulties for the secular, democratic and progressive sections of the people. In the first round of the presidential election, all other candidates including the centre-Left candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi, who polled 4.8 million votes (20.7 per cent) were eliminated. Some organisations and candidates who were disqualified called for a boycott of the elections. Others became passive. This was reflected in the polling which was 51 per cent.


Yet many of these forces voted for Morsi as they see Shafiq as a throwback to the army-security regime which they had fought so courageously and which resulted in the overthrow of Mubarak in February 2011. Morsi has promised to have a prime minister from outside the Brotherhood and also to have representatives of the secular parties in the cabinet.


But the main issue will be how the SACF and the army will respond. The Egyptian army gets a 1.3 billion dollars annual subsidy from the United States of America. It is deeply entrenched in the economy and its business empire, according to reports, amounts to 40 per cent of the GNP. The armed forces and the old establishment have sought to undo the democratic gains of the popular uprising. It struck back by getting the parliament dissolved; it got some of the main candidates for the presidential elections disqualified and mobilised all the resources to see that Ahmad Shafiq got elected.


In that sense, the victory of Mohamed Morsi is a small step against the return of the old regime. There are various misgivings about the Muslim Brotherhood. It may strike a deal with the armed forces and usher in a Turkish model of democracy which existed in that country till a decade ago. The United States is aiming for such an entente between the Brotherhood and the army. At the same time the popular movement for democracy has its impact on the Islamist organisation. If it seeks to protect the democratic gains, it will have to struggle against the armed forces who seek to retain power from behind the scenes.


The recent events have disillusioned some of the groups and those sections which had participated and led the historic popular uprising. Some of them have proclaimed that the chapter of the revolution has ended. But that would be a pessimistic and defeatist view. The working class has been active and there have been a number of strike struggles in the past one year. The popular movement may not be able to repeat the Tahrir Square type uprising, but the struggle for a democratic transformation will continue through other means and at various levels.


The type of government that will be constituted by President Morsi will be a signal of how things will shape up. It is important that President Morsi and the ruling party fulfil its promise that they would set up a government which will represent other streams including the secular and democratic forces. The struggle for reinstating the elected parliament and for a democratic constitution will have to be taken up. The future course in Egypt will ultimately depend on the people who have awakened and shown a high degree of political consciousness and the willingness to struggle for their rights.