Almost every brutal regime in the world, no matter how depraved, needs at least a veneer of popular legitimacy. Egypt’s ruling military junta, which ousted a democratically elected government back in July and has imposed harsh crackdowns ever since, is angling for just such “legitimacy” by “resigning” ahead of national elections.
The Los Angeles Times:
In a surprise move that paves way for army Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Sisi to run in the upcoming presidential election, Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi announced his Cabinet’s resignation on Monday.
According to Egyptian regulations, Sisi, who is still the country’s acting defense minister, has to quit his military post before he can be nominated as a civilian candidate.
An Egyptian official was quoted by Reuters as saying that Sisi did not want to appear to be acting alone by solely submitting his resignation.
“This was done as a step that was needed ahead of Sisi’s announcement that he will run for president,” the official told Reuters.
After months of gutting the Muslim Brotherhood, sidelining secular parties, and harshly cracking down on anyone who speaks ill of the military regime, the junta can be confident in a win for Sisi. At the RAND Corp., Jeff Martini explains Egypt’s “disheartening but predictable pattern.”
The generals consolidate power while their allies in the Interior Ministry crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, with the front pages of half of Egypt’s papers proclaiming the virtues of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s new strongman in waiting, and the other half running tales of the Brotherhood’s terrorist connections, the question in Egypt is no longer what is going on — the trajectory, a return to military dictatorship, should be clear to anyone.
“The traditional arrangement was to have a single dominant party securing the generals’ interests while smaller parties bludgeoned each other in a show of political competition,” Martini adds. “But with no single party left to play that primary role and none on the horizon” the generals are left to find other ways to neuter the political system and retain their power.
The “generals’ civilian coalition [may] break down,” in which case they will “govern unilaterally.” “But without the barest window dressing of civilian rule, that will be much riskier business.”
Egypt’s chaotic post-Mubarak saga of perpetual overthrow and transition has left the United States to eagerly capitalize on whoever is ruling Egypt (always with the military – which has close ties to the U.S. military – in the background) in order to maintain the U.S. as the dominant foreign influence despite the ongoing uncertainty in who will govern into the future. That is still the case now: Egypt is set to receive another $1.6 billion in foreign aid.
And for what? What indispensable benefits does this support for dictatorship yield? It’s true that, as The New York Times reported in 2012, U.S. aid to Egypt helps keep the pockets of defense corporations nice and full. In terms of the “national interest,” the two arguments are to maintain the Egypt-Israel peace treaty and to maintain America’s privilege access to the Suez Canal. But as I wrote about here, those arguments are bogus.