A Coup by Any Other Name… is Still a Coup

The January 25, 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak ushered in a period of great hope for Egypt. Now, a year and a half later, the promise of the Egyptian revolution is almost completely snuffed out – and the military, once hailed as the savior of the revolution, is the one firmly holding the pillow over its head.

Superficially, at least, Egyptians may appear to be reaping the fruits of their rebellion. The past two days have seen the completion of a runoff round of presidential elections, following the first round of voting last month. On Monday morning, although the results had yet to be officially announced, the outcome appeared relatively certain:

An election committee source told Reuters that Islamist Mohamed Morsy, a U.S.-educated engineer, was comfortably ahead of former air force general Ahmed Shafik with most of the votes tallied. But the count, which would make him the first civilian leader in 60 years, had yet to be officially finalized.

But this accomplishment belies the reality of the situation. The parliament elected in the wake of the January 25 uprising was disbanded last week by a judiciary that few, if any, see as impartial. And during the runoff round of the presidential election, voters were presented with the somewhat unpopular choice between Shafik (Mubarak’s last prime minister and a figure associated with the previous regime) and Morsy (the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, derided as a ‘spare tire’ after being selected to replace the group’s initial choice, who was disqualified earlier this year).

Even more depressing is the fact that the military still holds all the cards that count, and they’re getting less and less shy about playing them. Indeed, it seems that Morsy’s anticipated victory in the presidential election may not actually mean much, as the junta has acted to enshrine its influence moving forward. If there was any remaining uncertainty as to the true intentions of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), its most recent move should remove this lingering ambiguity:

Just after the polls closed, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued a constitutional declaration, granting itself legislative powers, control over the economy and the right to pick who will draft the next constitution.

With no constitution in place and parliament technically invalidated, the real question is whether the Brotherhood will be content for now with Morsy’s victory, or whether they will challenge the military’s dominance moving forward – and if they decide to take on the military, what route they choose. And just as importantly, if Brotherhood members and supporters do take to the street to challenge the junta, it remains to be seen how many others will join them.

The situation here in Egypt is both fluid and immensely worrying. I’ll be posting updates from Egypt moving forward.

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