The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Who's unhappy about the coup against parliament?

The ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court on Thursday has been described by many, including myself, as a coup by proxy. The only democratically elected institution in Egypt is now gone, the SCAF has regained full legislative powers  — i.e. the power to rule by decree — and it's not clear whether the president who will be elected in the next two days will be able to assume his position in any case. Furthermore, we know that SCAF intends to ammend the constitutional declaration now in place or perhaps issue a new one altogether. If it looks like a coup and smells like a coup and is based on absurd legal reasoning, it probably is a soft coup.

The strange thing is that I don't see much outrage about it outside of Twitter.

The Muslim Brotherhood has chosen to accept the decision and focus on the presidential race. This may be simply a tactical choice to boost its premise that Mohammed Morsi is the revolutionary candidate at a time when the MB has lot its main claim to legitimacy, its parliamentary majority. Others whisper that this indicates a deal in the making, where Morsi will take the presidency. Many MB members grumble but for now their focus is the presidential race, even though SCAF now has the leeway to redefine presidential powers depending on which candidate wins. It may be that the MB is keeping its outrage bottled in case its candidate loses, but the decision not to push on the court's verdict as illegitimate is certainly puzzling.

The Salafists have largely been quiet, as far as I can tell. Perhaps they're wondering whether this politics stuff is worth it.

Establishment secularists of all stripes appear to be delighted with the dissolution of parliament, even those who were MPs! Some of them expected this from the outset of the elections  — they knew the 2011 electoral law was problematic and that this parliament would not last long. (Personally, I don't understand the constitutional logic of the verdict  —it might have applied under the 1971 constitution but the constitutional declaration contains nothing to prevent a mixed electoral system). But then why did they play along with it? Others are simply happy to see an Islamist-dominated parliament go under. It's quite sickening that they have so little respect for the institution they were elected to and believe a parliamentary majority they dislike is best replaced by a council of 20 or so generals.

Radical revolutionary types are in a good mood too. It proves everything they've been saying, and in any case many of them believe the parliamentary elections were fraudulent or otherwise flawed. They can credibly say that the emperor is naked, and if Ahmed Shafiq wins the presidential election, their entire theories will have been proven. Some hope that the real, violent and bloody, revolution will come then. 

To me, it seemed like this dissolution of parliament was worth making a real fuss about. Accepting the verdict as so many have done not only sets a precedent but essentially is an acceptance of the rules of the games set by SCAF. The revolutionaries who decried this transition from the beginning — and they range from radical leftists to radical libertarians to very establishment personalities like Mohamed ElBaradei  —are at least safe in the knowledge that they refused to participate in this charade from the very beginning. But the others...

A few days ago I began writing a post endorsing Mohammed Morsi for president. I wanted to wait to see whether Shafiq was still in the race before I posted it. But the decision to dissolve parliament sounds the death knell to the credibility of the political process in Egypt, and while I still prefer a Morsi victory (with many, many, caveats) to a Shafiq one, I think it's hardly worth giving credence to an entire political system that has no credibility. The only thing I see in Egypt's future is military rule, civil disobedience, and violence. The SCAF is mostly responsible for this, but those who accept this verdict and SCAF taking over legislative powers have their role too. History will remember them.