So the Supreme Constitutional Court has delivered its much-dreaded verdict; furthermore, it was the nightmarish scenario I mentioned in my previous piece. Shafiq was allowed to run in the second round (as I predicted) but the decision about disbanding the Parliament, which I hoped would be postponed in order to avoid pre-election tension, was also out and it was bold to say the least.
Following the verdict, I decided to wait until everyone rattled his or her sabers. Now, I would rather share my thoughts (and humble opinion):
- The SCC‘s verdict was one crucial, clever move in a long game between the generals and the preachers. The generals proved they could play chess while the preachers decided to play reckless backgammon on the same chessboard; only the dice didn’t serve their fortune. As for the revolutionaries, they were reduced to merely becoming spectators, sidelined by both, the generals and the preachers.
- SCAF’s recent moves could partly be a preventative measure in order to preempt the slightest chance of a coup from among low-ranking officers, who may have expressed their dissatisfaction at what they perceived as their boss’s weakness. Now, the Junta has shown they are in charge and they are a boss that can’t be deposed of easily.
- The Judiciary verdict was expected and it was technically sound. The body of experts has recommended the same a few weeks ago. The timing and the speed were really surprising (as Nathan Brown mentioned in his latest piece); normally in Egypt, these verdicts take years. It may indicate a growing impatience from the Supreme Council of Military Force (SCAF) and a deep desire to assert their position as “big brothers” for Egypt.
- The revolutionaries have committed several mistakes, however two stand out:
First, they failed to acknowledge their own weakness. Deposing Mubarak has given them a false sense of self-confidence and has inflated their perceived power.
Second, they abused Tahrir by frequent demonstrations in less crucial battles, which drained their much-needed energy in crunch time, especially in the last few days. The revolutionaries were not out of touch but out of focus: they were supposed to represent the disfranchised Egyptians but were distracted by many side issues.
- The Junta may not be supreme, but they are not dumb, and they understand a thing or two about the dynamics of Egyptian society. They have their eyes and ears everywhere, which helps them to sense public mood and plan their next steps accordingly. The behavior of SCAF in the first few months following the January 25th revolution was very timid, as if they decided to play a soft game, absorbing and accommodating the revolutionaries’ demands while planting their own safeguards like the constitutional declaration (particularly the added bits which weren’t included in the referendum). Once they sensed the change in public opinion, they became bolder in their behavior.
- The behavior of the Muslim Brotherhood was rather odd. Their decision to run in the election following the SCC’s verdict could be their biggest strategic error to date. Besides vote rigging, there is a real chance of Shafiq winning fair-and-square, which could be a big blow that might expose a drop in their popularity and their inability to represent the revolution. Even if Morsi won, without a constitution and with the legislative power in the hand of SCAF, it would be just a pyrrhic victory.
In other words, SCAF gave both the revolutionaries and the Brotherhood the rope upon which to hang themselves; sadly, both fell for it.
So what’s next?
No one knows, but one thing is clear: regardless of who will win the runoff–Shafiq or Morsi— the winner will not be Egypt’s next leader. He will be the “junior” under the authority of the big boss who is currently acting as Egypt’s “Security Council” with special veto power, willing to veto any decision that is deemed unsuitable.
It will be interesting to see when SCAF will release the supplementary constitutional declaration—before the results or after? If I have to guess, I think they will release it before the announcement of the results (expected on June 21st), but not before they have a clearer picture of who the winner is.
Sadly in Egypt, both SCAF and the Brotherhood are strong believers in Amr ibn al As and his famous quote describing the Egyptian people: “Their loyalty is to the winner.” That is why the game between the preachers and the generals is bound to continue until there is a winner. Meanwhile, expect more instability, violence and even political assassinations.