Deep State

Last Thursday, the Supreme Presidential Electoral Committee (SPEC) made it known that they were going to delay the announcement of the winner of the Presidential run-offs until yesterday (24th June).  They claimed the delay necessary to ensure that every one of the 400 complaints issued by both parties were excoriated to a satisfactory level.

This seemed a bad omen for the Morsi supporters, as they claimed the SPEC were using the time to rig the votes to overturn the approximately 900,000 lead that Morsi appeared to have in the preliminary counts.  On the flip side, the Ahmed Shafiq supporters were concerned that the delay was giving the SCAF and the MB time to form a deal and ensure a Morsi victory.  Either way, people were concerned with how SCAF were going to deal with the situation, rather than trusting the democratic process and those involved in overseeing it.

The ‘Deep State’ mentality is something that has popped up recently as the ugly head of the former, openly autocratic, regime lies on his deathbed and the country does it’s best to wake from their slumber and transition to a true democracy.  But then again, most Egyptians have experienced autocratic rule their entire lives, why should they believe things will really change now?

The Egyptians I had spoken to seemed to feel that their first ‘freely’ elected president was going to be decided, not by the votes of the Egyptian people, but rather by the judgments and accords made by the old ruling bodies of power.  Déjà vu all over again, one might say.  I had theorised what the most astute moves would be for the ‘underlying powers’ at work, should they attempt to affect Egypt’s tortuous journey to democracy.

As SCAF and the judiciary seem to be almost universally seen as the groups with the largest sway in matters undemocratic, the question one must ask is: what would they do to ensure their survival as major institutions and remain with the powers they have enjoyed for so long?

Alter the constitutional declaration to ensure that more powers are kept with them, rather than with the incoming president and parliament? Check – They annexed a number of changes to the constitutional declaration, allowing the military council complete control over the military whilst gaining veto powers over foreign policy, including declarations of war.

Ensure that legislative power moves back to the ruling military council and away from Parliament?  Check – the HCC (High Constitutional Court) dissolved the entire parliament over a legal hiccup, that could and should have been aired out a long time ago, and SCAF have set up their own National Defence Council to preside over any legal wranglings that take place.

Guarantee that the new constitution maintains their role in society? Check – they made sure that they had the power to oversee the appointing of the 100 member strong constitutional council that will draft the next constitution.

Make full use of the country’s poor literacy rates (28.6% of people over 15 are incapable of reading and writing.  With women, it’s 40.6%) to try and appeal to their most benighted, basic wishes by giving them an Islamist president figurehead to be content with? Check – Mohammed Morsi won the presidency by 51.7% to Shafiq’s 48%.

Now, of course these audacious moves are certain to ruffle a few feathers, indeed just after the addendum to the transitional constitution was declared, ex-presidential candidate Khaled Ali filed a lawsuit to remove the changes.

Surely if they were to try such a daring power grab and in turn, reduce the role of the incoming president to nothing more than an emaciated figurehead, they would need to have the powers to control the inevitable populous backlash.  Unfortunately, Egypt just lifted its emergency law, for the first time in 31 years, not 3 weeks prior to the Presidential elections – a strangely myopic move if there really were a state within a state seeking to control future matters.

However, two weeks after Egypt was decreed ‘no longer in a state of emergency’, the Egyptian Minister of Justice effectively reinstated emergency law by granting military intelligence and officers the power to arrest civilians until a new constitution is in place.  This decree came into effect on June 14th, the same day that the HCC dissolved parliament and awarded sweeping powers to the SCAF.  Good save guys.

With such evidence suggesting that the SCAF have done all within their power, bar an actual military coup, to ensure the continuation of their power, one must not think the election of the uncharismatic Mohammed Morsi portends anything other than more struggle in the effort for true freedom.  This is not the beginning of a bright, new, democratic era; with a lot of hard work this can be the final chapter in the old one.  The journey ahead will be incredibly slow and if the goal of true democracy is ever to be realised, the people must wake up to the fact that the foundations they are building on are being laid out, not by themselves, but by the SCAF.

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