By Andrew Williams
With the final round of the presidential election approaching on 16 and 17 June, the Mubarak appointed supreme constitutional court has dissolved the Egyptian parliament. The military regime staged this partial coup d’etat as the democratic gains so far achieved by the Egyptian revolution threaten to end its dictatorship.
It has to be the goal of all progressive forces to ensure the defeat of the military’s candidate, and therefore victory for the Muslim Brotherhood in the run-off presidential vote. The two candidates are Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) Freedom and Justice Party and Ahmed Shafiq, backed by the Egyptian Army.
That there is an election at all and the MB can organise legally and freely are gains that the Egyptian revolution achieved due to the heroic actions of the Egyptian people driving Mubarak from power last year.
Faced, in February 2011, with an uprising that had paralysed the country, with mass mobilisations willing to stand up against brutal repression, the military withdrew its support from Mubarak and granted some basic democratic concessions. Only then was the military able to restore its control of the situation. Its instrument has been the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) which took over from the dictator. It is determined to preserve Mubarakism – that is, keep Egypt as a police state tightly allied to the US and Israel – and to halt the revolutionary advance.
Since Mubarak’s removal, the pro-democracy struggle has continued with waves of protest against the regime, albeit smaller than in February 2011. The counter-revolution has remained determined to crush this activity, with thousands more protesters being killed and injured this past year. However, the masses have not been broken. Last week hundreds of thousands took to the Egyptian streets when the regime’s courts acquitted the top officers who gave the orders to kill hundreds of democracy activists last year.
The Egyptian military is directly tied to the US imperialism and its ally Israel, being reliant on the US for approximately one fifth of its budget. It also has privileged economic interests – controlling a vast business empire that accounts for more than 10 per cent of the economy – which it wants to hold on to.
Its candidate in the presidential election, Ahmed Shafiq, is a former commander of the Egyptian Air Force, a stalwart supporter of Mubarak – the deposed dictator’s last Prime Minister. During his tenure the regime organised the bloody ‘Battle of the Camels’, sending thousands of armed pro-Mubarak thugs to attack the demonstrators in Tahrir Square.
The army has delayed the elections it promised for July 2011 till now, when the momentum of the revolutionary upsurge has declined to a significant degree. It wants to ensure that any government is only ‘civilian’ in name and that the fundamental powers of the military are preserved. Regardless of the outcome this weekend, it wants a restricted role for the President and Parliament written into the new constitution.
This can be more easily achieved if its puppet candidate Ahmed Shafiq is elected. The military have tried to rig the elections, by excluding candidates and by fraud – issuing 900,000 voting cards to soldiers ineligible to participate.
The Muslim Brotherhood has been waging a struggle to curtail the military’s power. The Parliament has been controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood since January and has been at loggerheads with the military’s non-elected appointee Cabinet.
But while the Muslim Brotherhood is at odds with the Egyptian army, it seems to be reassuring the US that its policy interests would be defended, and that it will soften its previous hardline stance on Israel and Palestine, with no commitment to lift the siege of Gaza nor to scrap the 1979 Camp David Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, just calling for a ‘review’.
The Muslim Brotherhood also distanced itself from the continuing mass mobilisations by refusing to participate in some of the past year’s pro-democracy demonstrations, particularly at times when the military were escalating their attacks on the protestors.
These positions of the Muslim Brotherhood have weakened its popular standing and led to some on its left wing to break away.
In the November 2011 – January 2012 parliamentary elections, with turnout at 55 per cent the Muslim Brotherhood-led alliance secured more than 10.1 million votes with a 37.5 per cent share. In the May 2012 first round of the presidential election, with turnout reduced to 43 per cent, its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, only took 5.8 million votes with a 24.8 per cent share. That is a fall of 4.3 million votes and a drop of 12.5 per cent in vote share.
In the first round of the presidential election the military’s candidate, Shafiq, was declared to have come second with 5.5 million votes (23.7 per cent), no doubt assisted by fraud.
Whilst support for the Muslim Brotherhood fell between November and May, candidates to its left secured large support in May. Two currents that consistently back the democracy protests together took 38 per cent of the vote, and were declared in third and fourth places. Hamdeen Sabahi, a Nasserist, got 4.8 million votes (20.7 per cent) and Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a left Islamist former leader of the MB, secured 4.1 million (17.5 per cent).
Sabahi campaigns for the re-nationalisation of privatised industries and Fotouh represents the more socially liberal wing of the MB. Without electoral fraud, it is entirely possible that Sabahi would have come second, so have made it to the run-off election.
However, the Egyptian people now face a run-off between the military’s candidate and the Muslim Brotherhood. There is no room for neutrality in this fight, and unequivocal support should be given to electing the Muslim Brotherhood candidate and defeating the candidate of the army.
The fundamental issue in this election is how can the revolutionary struggle secure the best conditions to continue fighting to loosen imperialism’s grip over the Egyptian state and further weaken the ancien regime.
Defeating the army candidate, and therefore campaigning for a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood in this run-off, is the clear choice confronting Egypt’s progressive forces.