Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Egyptian Army’s Dangerous Gamble

A few months ago I tweeted that I didn’t think Major General – now Field Marshal – Abdel Fatah El Sisi would run for president. “God does not become a prophet,” I said. Why would he run for such a difficult – and cursed – job and compromise his popularity? It looks like I was wrong. It seems Egypt’s throne is too enticing for many people.

In this post, I won’t discuss why I think it is wrong for El-Sisi to run for president. Many articles and op-eds touched on that topic when it became clear that El-Sisi wants to become Egypt’s next president. I will discuss, as a pragmatist, what I think is one of the army’s most dangerous gambles and why the institution as a whole is compromising its status in Egypt by fulfilling El-Sisi’s 35 years old dream of becoming “Egypt’s leader”.

Whether we like it or not, the Egyptian army is the only entity holding Egypt together at the moment. My pro-revolution friends often laugh at the saying that “the army is the last pole holding the tent up.” This saying is true, it is a fact. The reason why many people are crazy about El-Sisi is not because they’re in love with his persona per se as much as they see in him the only remaining strongman who can save them and bring the country back to normal. They know that the army is the last standing institution that can bring some stability after 3 years of chaos and insecurity. El-Sisi is adored by million because he is the army chief and not because he is El-Sisi.

By agreeing to nominate a president, the army acted like a political party and entered the fray of Egypt’s politics. That fray ranges from fighting jihadists in North Sinai to getting blamed for the increasing price of tomatoes.  By stepping in into the Egyptian political quagmire, the army agreed to be on the front line of Egypt’s current war with things like gas prices, power cuts, the price of cooking oil, and the austerity measures that will most likely happen if the country is to depend on itself and not just on aid from the Gulf countries – the Saudis and Emiratis can’t go on feeding 90 million people forever.

The question now is this: what if the army’s candidate failed? What if President El-Sisi failed to meet the already soaring expectations of the people? What if after three or four years people discovered that El-Sisi – the army’s candidate – is as incompetent as his predecessors and ended up losing trust in the only institution still standing in Egypt?

My pro-revolution friends would love that to happen. “Let the army fails so people can learn that military rule is not the answer,” a pro-revolution friend told me. I would have agreed with him if we had alternatives to both the Islamists and the army. Unfortunately, till now, we don’t have any third option. If the army candidate failed and people lost trust in the institution that nominated him, anything could happen including a second revolutionary wave that the country will not withstand.

I would have preferred if the army stayed away from politics. It is better for Egypt and better for the army itself. However, it seems that the army sees the issue from a different perspective. Either the army is afraid to relinquish the rule of Egypt one more time or it’s just that the throne is too sweet in the eyes of its chief, or both.

  Posted by BP at 12:21 pm Comments Off on The Egyptian Army’s Dangerous Gamble

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