"In repentance and rest you will be saved…”
The second parliamentary elections since the Egyptian revolution in January 2011 are at hand – at long last. All the usual electoral paraphernalia is in place; streets around the country are awash with posters, banners and signs, the Higher Electoral Commission is working full-steam ahead, police, army and over a thousand members of the judiciary have been deployed to provide both protection and judicial supervision of the polling, and the first phase of the polling covering 14 of the nation’s 27 governorates is nearly at and end, and has been conducted smoothly and with little incident. There is one glitch, however, voters aren’t interested.
In the Egyptian media there’s wailing and gnashing of teeth. The “well connected” media “stars” that have overwhelmingly dominated the oligarch and/or state-run media over the past couple of years, no less than the troops of estimable nobody guests, are torn between haranguing Egyptian citizens over their lack of civic responsibility and offering the most bizarre explanations for the low attendance.
(One woman guest, a presidential advisor commenting on the abstention of young people from the vote, blamed their mothers, another, a relatively unknown “film star” accused abstainers of treason, several prominent talk-show presenters suggested it was voters’ love for and trust in President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi that kept them away from the polls, after all, ‘who needs a parliament when you have Sissi’. Others blamed the heat, one TV anchor protested that Egyptians were too busy surfing internet porn to go to the polls.)
Meanwhile, the young abstainers had a field day on the only media available to them. One posted on Facebook that he’s decided, after all, to head to the polling station: “I’m depressed and need to be alone,” he snickered. Another urged the winners to invite their voters to lunch upon the declaration of the results.
Yet the most glaringly and conspicuously absent from these presumably post-revolution elections were not so much the voters but politics. From start to finish, one would be hard pressed to uncover even a smidgen of politics in the midst of the hubbub. This, at least, the established media in all its frenzy had to acknowledge, blaming it as always on “the failure of political parties” in the country – a standard refrain borrowed from Mubarak times.
It was thus that a woman candidate running for a provincial seat could proudly tell a local newspaper that she has no interest and never had any interest in politics, “I want only to serve my constituency”. Another provincial candidate puts up a street banner on which he pledges to “sacrifice corruption and cronyism” for the sake of his constituency. Mr. Sameh Seif El-Yazal, retired intelligence officer and leader of the quaintly named “For the Love of Egypt” coalition, uniquely pledged the coming parliament will work to amend the constitution to reduce its own powers and prerogatives vis-à-vis the executive.
As expected by nearly everybody in the country, indicators from phase 1 of the polling show the ‘intelligence’-led For the Love of Egypt predominating the next parliament.
The de-politisation of Egypt has been possibly the Mubarak regime’s single notable achievement. The ‘desertification’ of Egyptian political space under Mubarak is now a well-established phrase in the country’s political dictionary. The Egyptian Revolution, almost magically, recreated the political realm – on the street, but was never able to translate this street power into institutional power, the latter having beem held and manipulated via a back-room, conflict-ridden deal between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The continuing revolutionary upsurge, would put this new ‘power bloc’ under intense pressure, exposing and deepening the cracks within, first by so weakening the military, then, in the form of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – SCAF – as to boost the ambitions of their (initially) junior partners, the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, in carving out a much greater share of the post-revolutionary pie, and later by so trouncing the Brotherhood, as to re-invigorate their embittered military partners.
For throughout the three years of ceaseless revolutionary upsurge the Egyptian revolution did not have the wherewithal to step in and fill the power vacuums it had itself created.
Fatigue was bound to set in, followed by repentance. A revolution unrealized is ultimately translated in the minds of a great many of those who made it happen as having been an exercise in futility. For a great many of the very Egyptians who for three whole years went out on the streets, braved bullets, police thugs and Islamist militias, even as the whole country seemed to sink into chaos and economic collapse, it was time for a rest.
The price of rest (i.e. restoration of stability) was repentance, a lesson the counter-revolution – galvanized and energized by the masses’ loss of steam, their growing willingness to hand it all over to “a savior” of some sort – has been drumming into their heads literally day and night for the past two years.
The outward message: you were fooled, tricked and manipulated by a handful of Kentucky-fried-chicken gobbling, paid agents of a global conspiracy against Egypt, including the US, Israel, Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah, world Zionists and Free-Masons. The heart of the message however is: don’t you ever dare rise up against your lords and masters. Repent!
The defeat of the revolution was destined to expand into a trouncing of politics. With the ongoing parliamentary elections, the second since the revolution, that particular secret is now glaringly outed.
Are we then back to yet another 30 years of a soulless political desert ruled over by businessmen and bureaucrats? I don’t believe it for a moment. The memory is there and the writing is on the wall. Egyptians will once again stray off the straight and narrow path of servility and submission. And that day is not too far off in the future.