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Egypt's ruling junta consolidates its position

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The country now turns toward a presidential election tomorrow in which the military's choice, Ahmed Shafiq, squares off against the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi. Mr. Shafiq, an air force officer who served in Mubarak's cabinet for years and was appointed his prime minister as part of his last ditch effort to cling to power, was one of the big winners on Thursday. The same court that dissolved parliament ruled THAT a law seeking to disqualify senior Mubarak officials like Shafiq from holding the presidency was unconstitutional. Shortly thereafter, Shafiq delivered what sounded like a victory speech to a cheering crowd shouting "President Shafiq" in Cairo. He barely mentioned the fact that parliament, the only body in Egypt with a shred of democratic legitimacy, had been removed from the scene.

The Brotherhood were the big winners in the parliamentary election, winning half of the seats. That record has now been wiped clean. Mr. Morsi, and his Islamist organization that has struggled against the military for decades, may still grab the brass ring tomorrow, but it's hard to see Egyptian army commander Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and his fellow officers bowing down to kiss it. Morsi was measured in his comments yesterday. While former Muslim Broterhood official Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh complained of a "coup," Morsi urged his followers to abide by the court's decision. At any rate, there can be no coup without a change of power. The military's control has only been reasserted, not lost.

But denying the fruits of the ballot box to popular forces in any society is a dangerous one, and the history of elections overturned against Islamists in the Arab world is grim. The Algerian military's nullification of elections in 1991, when Islamists looked set to win, touched off a decade of civil war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and spawned virulent jihadi terrorist groups.

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