30 June: The legacy

Gamal Essam El-Din , Friday 29 Jun 2018

Egypt marks the fifth anniversary of the 30 June Revolution amid a host of political and economic challenges

30 June Revolution
File Photo released by the Egyptian army, opponents of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi demonstrate at Tahrir Square in Cairo (Photo: AP)

Political analysts agree that in re-electing Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi as president — he won 97 per cent of votes cast — the public was expressing its continued support for the anti-Muslim Brotherhood 30 June Revolution which Al-Sisi led.

“Al-Sisi retained public support even though the economic reforms adopted since 2016 have hit people hard and led to wide-scale popular discontent,” says Kamal Amer, head of parliament’s Defence and National Security Committee.

“Although citizens complain about IMF-supported economic liberalisation policies, the most recent of which saw fuel subsidies cut by more than 50 per cent, they still believe Al-Sisi is the best option. He is a symbol of the 30 June Revolution which saved the country from civil war, disintegration and religious autocracy.

“After four years in office President Al-Sisi was able to bring order and stability to the streets, improve public services, particularly in the energy sector, and settle many of the country’s economic woes.

“Had the 30 June Revolution failed Egypt would have turned into a fanatic Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship, or disintegrated along the lines of Libya and Syria.”

Amer nonetheless agrees that some of the major objectives of the 30 June Revolution have yet to be achieved.

“Dismantling the autocratic Muslim Brotherhood is now 80 per cent complete. But much work remains to be done on reforming religious discourse and ridding the country of the Muslim Brotherhood’s perverted interpretation of Islam. Parliament approved a law establishing a National Council for Combating Terrorism and Extremism last April but no concrete moves have been made to close in on the extreme ideologies which spawn terrorism.

“The 30 June Revolution’s battle against terrorism is ongoing,” says Amer.

“The army and police have succeeded in bringing stability and order to most Egyptian cities after four years of suicide attacks, bombs and landmines and Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018 has, to a large extent, contained the North Sinai-based IS-affiliate Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis which is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of soldiers and policemen.

“But Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis continues to receive funding from countries that sponsor terrorism, particularly Qatar, and is still able to launch attacks, albeit on a limited scale.

“Under Al-Sisi Egypt has recently moved to cut supplies coming to Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis from Libya and Gaza, and via the Mediterranean and Red Sea.

Egypt is now giving massive assistance to the Libyan army as it fights terrorist groups which have provided a lifeline to Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, and has imposed tight control over the border with Gaza, halting any infiltration into Sinai.”

Khaled Okasha, an expert on terrorist groups, said in a TV interview: “The last four years have shown that during their one year in rule the Muslim Brotherhood developed close contacts with Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis and Hamas’ military wing in Gaza.”

In a recent speech Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas revealed that ousted president Mohamed Morsi had told him he was ready to cede most of Sinai to resettle Gazan Palestinians under Hamas rule as part of the greater Islamic Caliphate project.

“What Abbas said was not new. It has been known for some time that the Muslim Brotherhood used Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis and Hamas to carry out terrorist activities and assassinate senior officials, including prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat who was killed in June 2015,” said Okasha.

Amer argues that “the picture has changed completely since 2013.

“In 2013 there was rampant chaos and the spectre of a civil war. Now there is stability, discipline and a growing number of foreign tourists.”

Mustafa Bakri, independent MP and editor-in-chief of the weekly Al-Osbou, agrees that President Al-Sisi’s landslide victory in Egypt’s 2018 presidential election represented a renewed vote of confidence in the 30 June Revolution’s goals.

“What was heartening about Al-Sisi’s victory is that it came despite harsh economic policies and hostile media campaigns from Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated TV channels broadcasting from Qatar and Turkey, and malicious Western media reports,” said Bakri.

“That portion of the media hostile to Egypt tried to portray the 30 June Revolution as a military coup. Five years later, though, and the media campaign has fizzled out. The public has seen how Islamists have spread chaos in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen, and how Egypt has been saved from such chaos.”

Political scientist Gamal Zahran points to the significance of Al-Sisi keeping his promise, made at the beginning of his first term in 2014, to rebuild state institutions after four years of disintegration.

“But the strongest pillar of stability, ie political democracy, remains a work in progress. The five years of upheaval between 2011 and 2016 have left all political forces marginalised and fragile.

“True, some groups were able to win seats in parliament in 2016, but the public continues to view political parties as weak and ineffective.

“And,” adds Zahran, “President Al-Sisi has so far refrained from doing anything that might revitalise political life.”

In a speech ahead of the 2018 presidential election Al-Sisi denied any responsibility for the weakness of Egypt’s political life.

“I have repeatedly urged political parties with similar ideologies to merge and form influential blocs that could form a majority coalition in parliament and field a credible candidate in the 2022 presidential election,” he said.

In a speech following his swearing-in ceremony for a second term on 2 June, Al-Sisi said he would focus in the next four years on creating common ground and achieving real political development while still continuing the fight against terrorism.

Zahran is not optimistic about political life in Egypt flourishing anytime soon.

“This is bad,” he says, “because stability and a vibrant democracy are necessary to deliver the goals of the 30 June Revolution.

“Only a functioning democracy can ensure terrorism and extremism do not return to threaten the country’s future and stability.”

Noting that many of the forces that led the 30 June Revolution have left the political stage and some major players, including Mohamed Al-Baradei and Hamdeen Sabahi, remain hostile to the Al-Sisi regime, Zahran believes “the major challenge in the coming stage will be to create a political consensus and revitalise political life.”

Ayman Abul-Ela, parliamentary spokesperson of the Free Egyptians Party, argues that “while President Al-Sisi has been successful in achieving two major goals of the 30 June Revolution — fighting terrorism and improving public services — he faces two major challenges ahead, economic reform and containing Egypt’s runaway population.

“To overcome these challenges there needs to be real democratic reform. A public consensus needs to be forged strong enough to contain any social unrest.”

*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 June 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: 30 June: The legacy

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