Tumult in Egypt

January 26, 2014 - 4:40:36 am
Cast aside democracy. There is only one thing that can rescue Egypt from the deep pit it had dug itself into – sanity. The military, religious, political and secular leaders need to come together, sit and introspect where their country is heading and come up with immediate solutions before this Arab power reaches a point of no return.

At least 29 people were killed in anti-government marches in the country on the third anniversary of the uprising that culminated in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak as president. At the same time, tens of thousands of Egyptians rallied in support of the army-led authorities, underlining the country’s deep political polarization. The huge death toll during the anti-government protests shows the brutal and extraordinary use of power by the military against the protesters. A more sober and careful handling of the anti-government marches would have reduced the death toll. Reports say the security forces lobbed teargas and fired in the air to try to prevent anti-government demonstrators from reaching Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the 2011 uprising, where government supporters called for the head of the military, General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, to run for the presidency.

The polarisation between Islamists and the military rulers in Egypt has reached dangerous levels and threatens to deteriorate further.  The daily violence, deaths, demonstrations, hardening of positions, and calls by leaders for each other’s throats have sharply divided the Egyptian society. The result has been a total stalemate. 

The tensions are likely to build up as General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi tries to consolidate his position. Sisi toppled Mohammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July after mass protests against what critics called his mismanagement and increasingly arbitrary rule, triggering a confrontation with the veteran Islamist movement. The general, who served as head of military intelligence under Mubarak, is now expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency soon and is likely to win by a landslide in elections, expected within six months, as Brotherhood has been banned, driven underground and therefore cannot contest the polls. Several leading politicians have indicated they would not run for president if Sisi does, highlighting his increasing grip on power. and the barren political landscape that has emerged since Mubarak’s fall. The most vocal critics of the new order - the Brotherhood - have been largely driven underground.

Sanity must prevail first and after that the country needs a return to democracy. The ban on Brotherhood must be lifted and its party must be allowed to contest the elections. If Egyptians are united in support of the military rulers, and if Islamists have lost their initial support after the alleged misrule of Mursi, this must be proved through the ballot.