Thursday, June 14, 2012

BREAKING: Court Dissolves Egyptian Parliament; Army Takes Over; Civil War?

By Barry Rubin

The Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court has just invalidated the parliamentary election there. The parliament, 75 percent of whose members were Islamists, is being dissolved. The military junta has taken over total authority. The presidential election is still scheduled for a few dozen hours from now.

In short, everything is confused and everything is a mess. All calculations are thrown to the wind. What this appears to be is a new military coup. What is the underlying theme? The armed forces concluded that an Islamist takeover was so dangerous for Egypt and for its own interests that it is better to risk civil war, a bloodbath, and tremendous unpopularity than to remain passive and turn over power. I believe this decision was made very reluctantly and not out of some lust for power by the generals. They have decided that they had no choice.

Yes, it is under legal cover, but nobody is going to see it as a group of judges -- appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak, remember -- looking deep into the law books and coming up with a carefully reasoned decision based on precedent. This will be seen by every Islamist -- whether Salafi or Muslim Brotherhood -- and by most of the liberals -- who feel closer to the Islamists than to the government -- as if the 2011 revolution has just been reversed.

Prediction: massive violence.


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With typical journalistic "neutrality," CNN's Ben Wedeman reported from Cairo: "Those who don't want to see a return to the oppression of the past ... are very unhappy with this ruling." What about the people who don't want a radical Islamist regime and a Sharia state to become the oppression of the future?

Still, the fact that the court ruled that "establishment" candidate Ahmad Shafiq can run for president will further a perception that this is a conspiracy to return to the pre-revolutionary situation.

I'm not saying that the armed forces told the justices to make such a ruling. But clearly by backing it up the generals are declaring their willingness to confront the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists rather than let them take power. Is there a precedent for this? You bet there is:


In 1991 the Islamic Salvation Front was on the verge of gaining victory. Before the second round of voting could be held, the army staged a coup to stop the election. The resulting war lasted more than a decade -- in some respects, it's still continuing today. Cost in lives? About 150,000 -- 200,000 in a country whose population was about one-third that of contemporary Egypt. You do the math.

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