In the recent presidential elections, Marshal al-Sisi got 96.9% of the votes, according to the official questionable figures. It would have actually been a huge victory if it were not come accompanied by an abstention of the majority population.
According to official data, only 46% of the Egyptian people voted, far less than the 80% predicted by al-Sisi. Even this percentage of voters is questioned by the independent observers. After all only 15% voted in the first Election Day and on the other days the voting was noticeably smaller. The government extended the vote for one more day, provided free transportation to voters and even threatened with fines of 500 Egyptian pounds (US$ 70) on those who did not vote. Nothing worked. There were ballot boxes where no voters attended to.
The high abstention rate was the most important way of protest used by the masses. The bourgeois opposition headed by ElBaradei, supported al-Sisi. The oppositionist candidacy of Hamdeen Sabahi got only 3.1% of the votes. It has not turned into a real alternative; it only helped legitimize a fraudulent election.
The large abstention is not a fact of little importance having in view the country current political situation. It is an indication that the revolutionary process remains open.
Morsi’s overthrow, the first elected government in decades, was considered by many people as the sign of the “Arab spring” end or, in other words, the end of the revolutionary process. These people pointed out the support to the military as an indication of the revolution defeat.
Such an analysis is unaware that the absence of revolutionary leaderships for the masses makes the political processes extremely confused, with countless comings and goings. The Egyptian case is one of the most complex for its peculiarities.
For us this abstention means the first demonstration of the military regime weariness symbolized by al-Sisi. In the midst of ebbs and flows, the revolutionary process is still alive.
The military in Egypt: far more than the traditional role of the Armed Forces
The Armed Forces comply with, in any bourgeois state, the central role of the state support. Both, in a military dictatorship as in a bourgeois democracy, the state is supported mainly by its military base.
What is different in such cases are the regimes-the combination of institutions with which the political power is exercised. When governments (or parliaments) that effectively exercise the power are elected, it is about a bourgeois democracy. When it is the own armed forces ruling the country, it is a military regime.
Sometimes there is a disguise of the regime, such as in the Egyptian case: power is exercised actually by Armed Forces but there is a “democratic” government which does not command anything. Mubarak’s government fell, but the military regime was not defeated.
The main contradiction of the Egyptian revolutionary process is that the Armed Forces, the Revolution main enemies have high prestige in the country. There is an explanation for it, first in the Egypt’s history. It was the military troops, through Nasser, who expropriated the Suez Canal. It was them who fought Israel in the Six Day War.
Secondly, the political ability with which the military faced the latest crises has immensely cooperated so that they could acquire such a prestige. When the upsurge threatened to overthrow the military regime in 2011, the Army leadership forced Mubarak’s resignation. Thus the hated government was overthrown and the military regime was preserved, although weakened. When Morsi, the first elected government in the country’s history, faced a rebellion of the masses, the military perpetrated a coup. They have usurped a legitimate victory of the Egyptian people and preserved the military regime.
Sisi’s election aims to legitimize this dictatorship with a democratic guise. He was already the dictator who ran the country and is now the president-elect.
But military men are not only the center of the state, of the regime and of the government in Egypt. They are also a fundamental part of the ruling classes. A strong bourgeoisie was built as from the high officers of the Armed Forces who are in control of the state for decades, and it controls 40% of the country’s economy. The military run companies in the most important sectors of the economy, from production of pasta products up to furniture and TVs, in addition to the oil extraction and infrastructure projects.
Last March, for example, it was announced a housing project carried out by the Army and the construction company Arabtec, of the UAE – United Arab Emirates, estimated at 40 billion dollars.
An erosion of all the institutions
The international economic crisis has led to a significant increase of poverty in Egypt, being it the material basis of the revolution beginning. It is one of the most miserable Arab countries, with 48.9% of the population below the poverty line.
This reality just got worse since Mubarak’s fall of. Tourism, the main sector of the economy, declined 27% since 2011. Unemployment increased from 11% in 2011 to 13.5% right now. The international currency reserves fell from US$ 35 billion to US$ 15 billion. Cities face electricity cuts, has no running water. Filthy streets complete the picture of misery.
The different governments since Mubarak ‘overthrow tried to escape from the economic crisis using the neoliberal classic choice: attacking the population even more. In addition they also tried to restrict the democratic freedoms conquered in 2011.
Morsi had a disastrous government, imposing the same economic plan, repressing and murdering thousands of people. He tried to impose through blood and iron the economic, political and religious project of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The government of Hazem el Beblawiwhich, which succeeded Morsi, employed repression against the Brotherhood in order to attack the whole mass movement. They killed three thousand people and arrested another twenty two thousand. They also cracked down on the marches and demonstrations. They not only outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, but also the April 6 Movement, which played an important role in Mubarak’s overthrow and during the fight against Morsi. Recently they condemned to death 682 defendants of the Muslim Brotherhood.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center indicates that the result of all this is a wear of all the regime’s institutions. Egyptians are more dissatisfied (72%) than satisfied (24%) with the country situation. The military had the support of 88% of the population soon after the overthrow of Mubarak, 73% after Morsi’s fall and 56% today. Sisi himself has the support of 54% of the Egyptians, with 45% in opposition.
Morsi, of the Brotherhood, who had 53% of support a year ago, before his fall, has now 42%. Such a decrease, though smaller, is significant after the organization ban and the imprisonment of their leaders by the government.
The courts, which had a positive image of 58% a year ago, now have a minority support of 41% after its authoritarian rulings. This provides a general idea of the wear of all the institutions, expressed in high electoral abstention.
The process remains open
Nowadays however, the military will have to directly run the country’s government. They will not be playing their role in a hidden way, but will be taking on the government openly. This opens a possibility that the masses make their experience with the military.
The North American imperialism supports Sisi, as well as the governments of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait. Along with the support, these governments demand the use of a serious economic plan according to the neoliberal prescriptions.
The IMF puts pressure for a cutting down in the subsidies for fuel, electricity and wheat. Morsi had to implement such a plan and the result was well known.
Presently Sisi has to fulfill this task. He will have to cope with a labor movement that has its forces still preserved and in ascension. Since February this year the strikes resumed. There were demonstrations in Mahalla, Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and other cities. The revolutionary process in Egypt remains open.