November 27, 2011

Beyond Face Value and Behind Closed Doors

The current events gripping Egypt should not be taken at face value. The discussions about a presidential council, boycotting the elections, Ganzoury government or the SCAF willingly relinquishing power are all solutions for a symptom but not addressing the real issues. The SCAF never cared about constitution first/elections first nor do they care about which Prime Minister is in place. What they have wanted all the time is to protect their backs as they leave the scene as well as retaining some or all of their historical powers. What we are going through right now is a fight between the street and the SCAF for the position of the army in a civilian managed state. 
Not to my surprise and not many others', the messages coming from SCAF members are inconsistent and contradicting. While Shaheen yesterday explicitly mentioned that the Selmy document was still on the table, Tantawi today stated that the army will have the same position as per the previous constitution, a clear sign that he / they are no longer supporting the Selmy document which gave the army a superior position. Are those contradicting statements showing a rift between decision makers? 

The Mohamed Mahmoud saga, if anything proved that there are significant negotiations happening behind closed doors. I can't tell between which powers, nor what the fight was about. But the way things developed and were sustained over 6 days, only to cease within a couple of hours, strongly suggest that the whole confrontation was managed and sanctioned by the SCAF (or at least some of its members). The struggle by a few at the top might have created some grunting in the lower ranks. Especially that now it is obvious to all that SCAF has been a doing an exceptionally bad job managing the transition. 

The bottom line is that we need to also look at the bigger picture and realize what we are really up against. We have two key routes today, the first one is to seek an "agreement" with the SCAF on the best way for them to leave. This will include some compromises from both sides but should – in theory – guarantee a much faster transition to a civilian government. The second route is to continue to exercise pressure, which will eventually lead to a new confrontation (or more) and possibly end with a violent removal of the SCAF. 

The first route is a difficult one, just because it requires some difficult agreements from the opposition and a lot of politics: The consensus on the representative(s) in such a negotiation can be tricky. Moreover, it will be difficult to have a unified list of concessions. Having said that, with the rising pressure from the street, there is a big possibility the SCAF will be willing to accept much less than it did a few weeks ago. 

The second route is a very risky one and could extend for months. A confrontation with the army can be extremely bloody but also in light of the current perceived rift between decision makers as well as some of the rising pressure from the lower ranks, a confrontation could ultimately lead to an internal coup giving way to a whole new group of people to deal with. In the meantime, we can expect a more deteriorating security situation as well as a near collapse of the economy. Moreover, we can expect that a violent confrontation with the army will have a large number of people distance themselves from the revolution, decreasing the chances of such a standoff being in favor of the revolutionaries. 

I am in favor of the first route and I believe that with the correct representation, the concession can be minimized and a peaceful transition expedited.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you that the first route sounds like the logical and least destructive one. However, how can the first route lead to justice being served (i.e. who killed those Egyptian citizens from Jan 25th until now?). What type of concessions you think are needed for Tanta and Co. to cede control? I think nothing less than total amnesty. Basically, they'll want to get away with murder *and* corruption. That would, in my opinion, form a very interesting foundation for a new Egypt. I don't have an answer but the thought of total amnesty for those generals who were in power for all those years makes me nauseous.