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Clearing the Fog – Egypt’s Political Map Two Years After “The Revolution”

Two Years After a Popular Revolution
Egypt’s Political Map: Clearing the Fog
by ESAM AL-AMIN – Counter Punch – 8 February, 2013

If parties from across all of Egypt’s political spectrum agree on one thing, it’s this: the country is currently witnessing the greatest turmoil since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster and is facing massive upheaval with no end in sight. The unity and resolve displayed by millions of Egyptians two years ago when they decisively deposed the authoritarian and corrupt Mubarak regime is long gone. Throughout these tumultuous two years, there emerged two major fault lines across the country’s political class: one that resulted from the revolution, namely the revolutionary vs. the counter-revolutionary groups; and one along ideological grounds, namely the Islamic vs. the secular parties.

All agree that the revolution was launched spontaneously by non-ideological youth groups, who paid the heaviest price and made the biggest sacrifices during the early days of the revolution. Such groups proclaim the mantle of the revolution and maintain that it has been hijacked by better-organized and established groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the Salafis.

The MB, however, asserts that although it did not publicly join the initial protests on January 25, 2011, it immediately joined forces within three days and protected the revolution as the group mobilized its massive membership and supporters across the country, especially during the battle of the camel on February 1, ultimately forcing the surrender of the regime ten days later.

The more conservative Salafi groups, while acknowledging that they were slow in joining the ranks of the revolution, argue that they embraced its objectives and the democratic process unleashed in its aftermath and thus legitimately represent the interests and aspirations of a substantial segment of Egyptian society.

On the other hand, the secular and liberal groups, including the Coptic Church, which are quite wary of the religious groups and are very adamant about limiting the role of Islam in political life, have been very frustrated in seeing decisive electoral victories by the more popular Islamic groups. Since the fall of Mubarak, Egyptians have been to the polls in largely free and fair elections on eight different occasions. And each time the voters decisively favored the Islamist groups.

In March 2011, the electorate voted 77 percent for a political process advocated by the Islamists that called for elections before writing a new constitution. Furthermore, between November 2011 and January 2012 Egyptian voters went to the polls four times to choose the upper and lower chambers of parliament. Once again the Islamist parties won over 73 percent of the contested seats. By June 2012 Egyptians went to the polls yet again in two stages to choose a president, eventually electing in a tightly contested race, though narrowly, the MB candidate, Muhammad Morsi. In December 2012, the Egyptian electorate went to the polls an eighth time, approving by a 64 percent majority a new constitution endorsed mainly by the Islamist groups, while strongly opposed by the secularist, liberal, and leftist parties as well as by many revolutionary youth groups.

As the second anniversary of the remarkable and peaceful Egyptian revolution approached in late January 2013, new alliances and coalitions were formed largely as the mistrust had widened between those who support and oppose Morsi, the Islamists’ agenda, or the new constitution. Consequently, new battle lines were drawn in anticipation of the new parliamentary elections scheduled for this spring.

With over 100 registered or declared parties across the country, what is the political map of Egypt two years after the revolution? …more

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