Egyptian Army calls the shots

EGYPT’S new military rulers have suspended the constitution, charting a road map for a political transition that was short on detail. They have dissolved the parliament and have set a six-month timeline for holding fresh parliamentary and presidential elections. In doing so, the military has tightened its grip on Egypt’s establishment, and announced unambiguously that it will be the custodian for steering the country’s transition to democracy.Amongst all the jubilation and back slapping at Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, one fact should not be lost that the transition in Egypt has not been a people’s revolution. Yes the people acted as a catalyst. Their continued presence at Tahrir Square for nearly three weeks did mount pressure on the beleaguered Egyptian President. The Twitter and SMS groups managed to whip up pressure and mobilize the masses. However, when the crunch came, Hosni Mubarak was willing to take a last ditch measure by transferring power to his handpicked Deputy, Omar Suleiman but cling to the Presidential seat himself till September at least. When the Egyptian military realized this, it moved in and staged a bloodless coup and is now calling the shots.

In a genuine revolution, the police and military cannot contain the crowds. In Egypt, the military chose not to confront the demonstrators, not because the military itself was split, but because it agreed with the demonstrators’ core demand: getting rid of Mubarak. And since the military was the essence of the Egyptian regime, it is improper to consider this a revolution. It must be remembered that in Egyptian politics has resolved around the military ever since General Naguib and Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser assumed power in 1952 after deposing King Farouk. Later Nasser removed Naguib and became the President of Egypt.His successors, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak were also military men. The Egyptian Army was displeased with the factor that Hosni Mubarak was trying to propel his reform-minded 47-year-old son, Gamal, lacking in military service, president of Egypt. This represented a direct challenge to the regime. In a way, Mubarak was the one trying to overthrow the regime. Mubarak’s decision to name his son represented a direct challenge to the Egyptian regime. Gamal Mubarak was not a career military officer, nor was he linked to the military’s high command, which had been the real power in the regime.

Mubarak’s desire to have his son succeed him appalled and enraged the Egyptian military, the defender of the regime. If he were to be appointed, then the military regime would be replaced by, in essence, a hereditary monarchy — what had ruled Egypt before the military. Large segments of the military had been manoeuvring to block Mubarak’s ambitions and, with increasing intensity, wanted to see Mubarak step down in order to pave the way for an orderly succession using the elections scheduled for September, elections designed to affirm the regime by selecting a figure acceptable to the senior military men. Mubarak’s insistence on Gamal and his unwillingness to step down created a crisis for the regime.The military feared the regime could not survive Mubarak’s ambitions. It is important to realize that the demonstrators never called for the downfall of the regime. They demanded that Mubarak step aside. This was the same demand that was being made by many if not most officers in the military months before the crowds gathered in the streets. The military did not like the spectacle of the crowds, which is not the way the military likes to handle political matters. At the same time, paradoxically, the military welcomed the demonstrations, since they created a crisis that put the question of Mubarak’s future on the table. They gave the military an opportunity to save the regime and preserve its own interests. Now it is not clear who will ultimately head the new government but one thing is clear the Egyptian Army will continue calling the shots – Dailymailnews