The torch that ignited one of the most successful revolutions in history has burnt itself out in perhaps the most reprehensible manner. The flames of defiance which spread like wild fire from Egypt across Arabia burning down the edifice of autocracy has today burned down the movement itself. Arab Spring suffered the worst body blow as Egypt slid back into yet another uncertain period of military rule following a coup that toppled its first ever elected president and suspended the country's constitution.
Not only did Egypt allow its military to take back its losing control over governance the country also, by accommodating a military coup, lost its leadership position of a revolution that went viral across a region where autocracy was the most accept norm and political order.
Downfall of Hosni Mubarak was a watershed event that inspired Arabs to stand against tyrants and autocrats. Unfortunately, however, in just two years, Egypt stabbed the revolution from behind. Egyptians, in pulling down the president they elected only a year ago with a little over 51 per cent votes, rolled out a red carpet for the old regime to come back. Pro-democracy activists, in their bids to get rid of fanaticism and bigotry, walked into the trap and became pawns of the military.
Since Mohamed Mursi was deposed Egypt has been sliding rapidly into chaos and uncertainties. With every passing day, clashes between the army and pro-Mursi Muslim Brotherhood supports have been rising. Toll of the clashes has been rising at an alarming speed. Over a hundred have already been killed and the count is still on. Fear and possibilities of more extreme forms of backlash are gaining ground. Egypt suddenly looks sitting atop a huge mound of gunpowder.
Russia and many others are predicting a civil war in Egypt. Such an assessment looks a trifle exaggeration or over estimation as it is still too early to predict so. But, Egypt is now already caught into the vortex of a downward spiralling anarchy. The country seems to have already taken off the block in its race to self-destruction.
Defence Minister and army chief Lt. General Abdul Fatah Al Sisi has added fuel to the fire. His call for a mass rally was, in essence, a dangerous effort to shoo a section of the Egyptian demography against another section, which now looks much bigger that the one that accommodated the coup. Al Sisi, in effect, declared a civil war in the pretext of cracking down on 'violence and terrorism.'
Perceptibly, the coup has gone awry. Toppling an elected president was a misadventure — a wrong move based on mistaken calculations and which the army subsequently failed to handle properly. In the process, the fig leaf that Al Sisi wanted to use as a façade to camouflage his real intentions has exposed more than concealing. Sisi wants to be the new pharaoh — reincarnation of Hosni Mubarak.
He has brought back the regime of Mohamed Naguib, Anwar Al Sadat, Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Hosni Mubarak that ruled Egypt for over fifty years drowning democracy in the Nile. Commentator Wadah Khanfar says, "It is now apparent that the political crisis in the country is further away from a solution." Observer's Foreign Affairs Editor Peter Beaumont says that crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood will only escalate the country's political crisis.
Holding Mursi somewhere at an army base is angering Egypt more than the illegal manner in which he was toppled. He needs to be released to prevent the situation from further exacerbation. But, Al Sisi isn't expected to do so as he fears Mursi's release will only magnify army's illegitimacy. The coup, the toppling of Mursi, suspension of the national constitution and the quasi civilian government all seek to derive their legitimacy from the demonstrations of June 30. Today, even that demonstration looks so palpably orchestrated by the army which was getting too desperate to re-emerge as the "guardian of the people's will."
Al Sisi's call for a mass rally to espouse the coup is an effort to legitimise grabbing power, subverting a fledgling democracy and browbeating the election that legally and legitimately elected Mohamed Mursi as the President. His move to seek support to tackle what he said 'terror' and 'violence' is only a ploy to unleash extreme measures to wipe out Muslim Brotherhood, legalise further bloodshed and consolidate army's rule.
A destructive political battle to own Egypt is fast crystallising. The coup and toppling of Mursi may have been hailed by some Arab nations; Israel may have been more than ecstatic. Yet, it was a recipe for disaster. All supports for Al Sisi were motivated by momentary calculations. The army taking control of Egypt sharply polarised the country's demography as much as the move, says Khanfar, split the soul of the region which is currently is a state of terrible flux. Al Sisi's coup deepened the region's fluidity.
So far, the revolt that weeded out Hosni Mubarak hasn't augured well for Egypt. Systemic failure continues to afflict the nation's politics and institutions. In the absence of strong and legally valid institutions, so important for democracy to flourish, each group is out into the arena exercising power to subvert the other and in detriment of the national interest. Rule of law and supremacy of civilian rule have been the worst casualties.
Al Sisi's army, in collusion with "liberal and some former regime remnants, which do not have genuine popular support," has brought back the free run of the "baltagiyas", meaning "thugs," who ruled the roost in Egypt during the reign of Mubarak.
Alas! Al Sisi has brought back the old regime in Egypt and he has the mandate of the derelict liberals.
The author is the Opinion Editor of Times of Oman