Was Egypt’s revolution an illusion by the military?
What a disappointment! As I consider the past year of the Tahrir revolution in Egypt in retrospect, what I conclude is something closer to the military takeover in Turkey on May 27, 1960.
It had a civilian motivation too. Even today, some youth leaders and intellectuals who took part in street demonstrations against the wrongdoings of the Menderes government object to it being called a military coup and claim they did it as a civilian revolution. They fail to see that it was not them but a military junta, which took power the day after the arrests of the president, the prime minister, all the ministers and most of the ruling party members of Parliament.
Not only those who occupied Tahrir Square craving freedoms and a better standard of living after 30 years under Hosni Mubarak, but their sympathizers from all over the world might have been fooled by the Egyptian military with the illusion that the revolution was indeed a popular one.
Well, the actors were the people, there is no doubt about that, like their intentions. But perhaps we did not want to see the Egyptian military’s silent watch of Tahrir for two weeks while their supposed boss Mubarak was desperately waiting for them to act against those in revolt. They did not. And perhaps we did not want to see that as Mubarak stepped down, nothing happened to his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, his army chief Mohammad Hussein Tantawi and his last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, all having military backgrounds; perhaps they thought Mubarak was no longer one of them and too much a burden for them to carry with all those corruption allegations.
Now all of them are in safe positions and it is the military that is writing the new constitution, tailor-made for military supervision of everything and Egyptian democrats, liberals and secularists of all sorts desperately feel obliged to accept the situation for fear of Islamic rule in the country.
Egyptians’ enthusiasm to elect their leaders through a free vote for the first time ever hit the rocks of a Constitutional Court ruling influenced by the military. The ruling annulled the parliamentary elections in autumn but cleared the way for Shafiq to run against Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate. Shafiq being military’s favorite reminded Turks of the case following the military coup of 1980 when in the first – and restricted – elections in 1983, the military put its support behind a military-origin politician against the civilian Turgut Özal, which resulted in a landslide victory for Özal.
But in the Egyptian case, the military had changed the rules literally as people were casting their votes and changed the constitution in such a way that it wouldn’t matter whether Morsi or somebody else was victorious, the real winners would be the military.
The Egyptian example is not encouraging regarding the future of the Arab Spring, which has already started to turn sour in Syria. Both examples show that freedoms and secularism go hand in hand for the even relative success of a democracy.