Egypt: Revolution, repentance and rest

Hani Shukrallah
Wednesday 21 Oct 2015

‎Parliamentary elections announce the death of politics in Egypt. Death, after all, is a most restful state.

"In repentance and rest you will be saved…”

 Isaiah 30:15

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. ‎

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