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“Legal coup,” “soft coup,” “slow-motion coup”—all are labels being used by the media, politicians (the Islamists in particular) and intellectuals as they decry SCAF’s latest moves, and have in fact been the most measured of responses. In particular, note Mark Lynch’s recent scathing response on Foreign Policy. “That’s it for Egypt’s so-called transition,” he says. Another analysis from the Guardian claims that “the Egyptian dream of democracy is fading”, while the BBC asks, “Death of the Tahrir Square revolution?”
June 30, 2012 is to be the first day of the Second Republic. The term was first coined by former Arab League chief and perennial statesman Amr Moussa during his presidential campaign. Mr. Moussa did not make it to the second round of voting, but his term stuck with media analysts and talk-show hosts, and even with other presidential candidates. Egypt was to enter a new phase of its history after that day, they reasoned. It would still be a Republic, but one markedly different from the First that began after the Free Officers coup in July 1952, and lasted until June 29, 2012. For the first time, non-military institutions were to assume the real power in the country, both behind and in front of the scenes.
Now, with SCAF’s latest moves, it seems that the Second Republic can aptly borrow from a timeless French adage: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Perhaps this seemingly unequivocal wave of panic is not entirely unwarranted. An unchecked and unelected military elite that controls all matters of the budget, national security, and legislative authority, as well as the ability for its personnel to arrest civilians, is hardly the recipe for a burgeoning representative democracy. SCAF’s moves following the dissolution of Parliament last Thursday seemed to undo the only two major accomplishments of the revolution to date: the end of emergency law, and free and fair elections for both Parliament and the Presidency. Now, the Parliament is proclaimed null and void, and the newly-elected President (Mohammad Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, by most unofficial tallies), gets to walk into the Presidential Palace by the end of the month, seemingly without anyone having bothered to roll out the red carpet beforehand.
But lest I risk joining either the crowd of doom-and-gloom pundits who continue to wane catastrophic about the end of the revolution and the stillborn democracy, or even raise my hand in the half-full or half-empty debate, let me simply recount my voting experiences during the final round of the Presidential vote.
Like many Egyptians of my generation who agonized over the very stark choice among the two left standing after the first round of the vote, I constantly dodged back and forth over which poison to pick. A member of the old guard currently facing corruption charges? A candidate with allegiance to a secret organization with ultimate plans of redrawing the map of the Egyptian state apparatus? There were reasons to vote for both, and for neither. There were reasons not to vote at all.
The election officials at my polling station were courteous and helpful, as I have always remembered them during my other voting experiences. Despite having sat in a stuffy classroom in 100-degree heat all day, they patiently instructed me on where to sign in and how to cast my vote. As I finally dipped my finger in the phosphorous ink at the end, one of the women officials gave a pleasant smile my way. “Happy Elections,” she said.
I paused, not quite expecting such a cheery reaction. “Thank you,” I finally replied. “Hopefully there will be many more of them.”
Maybe that woman was supporting Morsi, I reasoned. Maybe that was the explanation for the smile so uncharacteristic of such a dour election. Or perhaps, she was happy Shafik was allowed to continue his candidacy, and was confident of his victory.
But more likely, I prefer to think she was just happy to be overseeing the first free and fair democratic elections in Egypt’s history. She took pride in the process, however laborious and tedious it must have been to sit in the heat for 12 hours a day. However late she must have stayed, until all the ballots were counted. And no matter how many of those around her whined and complained about the legal and political chaos that had befallen them. Perhaps, in that stuffy classroom, she found purpose. A role to play, however minuscule.
A lot of things have been said and done this past week, and with many more things said than done. The upcoming tussle between the nation’s two most entrenched forces over the next 6 months will tell if the woman’s efforts in administering the elections were in vain, and if her smile will soon turn upside down into a frown. We will watch and, soon enough, learn for ourselves whether this whole democratic experiment was simply an exceptional blip in Egyptian history that will prove the unyielding rule. After casting our votes, for those of us who aren’t either high-ranking military officers or members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau, sitting back and watching is all that can be left to do, smiling woman in polling station included.
Democracy at work, ladies and gentlemen.By Dahlia Rizka, Aslan Media Contributor
*Photo Credit: Erik N
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