Secular Liberals!

October 20, 2013

In Blog

By Khalil Al-Arani

AL-AHRAM ONLINE, October 19, 2013

The actions of the civil political elite in Egypt have not ceased to amaze since the 3 July coup. Events over the past months have proven that their actions are not based on any moral or value-based system but more an expression of political opportunism and a desire to get rid of Islamists, even if the price is to create a military dictatorship. 

This is obviously apparent in the exclusionary rhetoric of many key figures of this elite, that primarily focuses on excluding Islamists and isolating them from society and politics. They also eagerly support and promote Minister of Defence Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi as a presidential candidate — a paradox that history will ponder at length.

There are many flaws and ironies in the political rhetoric and actions of what is described as the liberal and secular elite, which contradicts the fundamentals of the civil state they claim to represent and defend. Their positions and statements prove they are moving Egypt towards a military, not civil, state. What is most disconcerting is the amount of one-upmanship and pressure they exert to justify their support and promotion of El-Sisi as a presidential candidate.

That they insist on El-Sisi’s nomination for president reflects their dismal failure in creating a political alternative that could fill the vacuum left behind after the exit of Islamists from power. Instead of diligently working to find such an alternative, especially after the political arena has been cleansed of any political opponent, they are behaving like a lazy student who did not do his homework and decided to rely on others to succeed.

Many key figures and leaders of the National Salvation Front (NSF) that was formed in the last quarter of last year and came together to overthrow Morsi are now competing with each other to demonstrate their support for the rule of the generals. For example, Mohamed Abul Ghar, the head of the “civil” Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party and a leading figure of the NSF, shamelessly declared his support for General El-Sisi and even tried to convince other NSF leaders to support El-Sisi as the most competent candidate to lead Egypt at this stage.

It is interesting that Abul Ghar blamed his friend Hamdeen Sabbahi when he mentioned the latter’s slim chances of winning the presidency, and advised him to support El-Sisi. Sabbahi did not disappoint, confirming his support for El-Sisi in a television interview.

As for Amr Moussa, a former presidential candidate himself, he does not hide his admiration for El-Sisi since the “general mood” in Egypt supports this. Moussa expects a landslide victory for El-Sisi in the coming presidential elections. In fact, not one day passes without Egyptian newspapers publishing news about support for El-Sisi among intellectual and cultural figures, whether out of desire, fear or coordination.

Meanwhile, there is also a long list of media people, writers and journalists who are on a public relations campaign to promote El-Sisi, as if they were playing a harmonious symphony led by a conductor from behind the scenes. Some have even suggested giving El-Sisi a “pledge of allegiance” as president to save the cost of campaigning and elections.

The level of how enamoured and flattering this group is to the military institution reflects Egypt’s deep crisis. Instead of the civil elite becoming a tool for intellectual and cultural enlightenment, they are racing to show their support for military rule. It seems they have not learnt anything from the wretched rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that followed Mubarak’s ouster. Neither did they read the history of similar experiences, where the military reached power and the price was decades of authoritarianism, corruption and tyranny.

Judging by the eagerness of this elite, it is only logical that the generals do not take them seriously especially since they sacrificed democracy and buried it to spite Islamists after they failed in the political fray over the past three years. The more this group throws itself into the arms of the generals, the less they are taken seriously. Therefore, it is no surprise that El-Sisi asked them, in press statements that were leaked recently, to lead a campaign to bolster him in his position if he does not win the coming presidential elections.

The “leak” about El-Sisi conveys the outlook of the military institution regarding intellectuals and their important role in making the new situation legitimate by brainwashing the masses. It reflects their obvious contempt of the civil state that these intellectuals claim to want after the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood rule. It also demonstrates that the elite do not mind making one compromise after another in favour of the military institution.

Anyone who follows the debate of the Committee of 50, that is working to amend the constitution, regarding the mandate and privileges of the army will realise how weak and meek the civil elite are in confronting the military institution. It has even gone beyond pampering the military and giving it space in the civil arena which is unfathomable for any sane person. A few days ago, a member of the Tamarod (Rebel) campaign defended prosecuting civilians in military courts, demanded that the minister of defence should be allowed a 12-year term and that SCAF should have the right to veto the president’s choice of minister of defence.

There are many more such examples that reveal contradictions and falsehoods in many claims by the civil elite in Egypt.

Many key figures of this elite today believe that they are protected by the military institution and all raise the banner of “the army and the elite are one hand,” which is why many of them are disturbed by talk of reconciling with the Muslim Brotherhood. They have launched counter media campaigns against any mediation to resolve the current crisis, causing many mediators to back down in the face of the media assault. A case in point is Ahmed Kamal Abul Magd, who proposed an initiative to end the crisis and clear the air, but was lambasted with attacks and mockery.

The intellectual bankruptcy of the civil elite is similar to their moral bankruptcy. Since the January 25 Revolution in 2011, they have not presented a genuine political vision that can push the country towards democracy. Their sole battle was how to get rid of the Islamists at any cost.

It is astonishing that they impose such guardianship over the Egyptian people under the pretext that they are more aware and capable of deciding the people’s political choices, something they do in a piercing arrogant tone that contradicts the fundamentals of a genuine civil state built on the free choice of the citizenry. They forget that the Muslim Brotherhood were overthrown because of their attempt to impose their vision on society, which means the fate of the civil elite that is allied with the military will not be much different from their predecessors.

Woe is the fate of democracy in Egypt.