Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 08, 2013

Egypt: Increasing Instability

Egypt is going further down the drain or, speaking less metaphorically, is slowly sliding towards a civil war.

There have been clashes in Port Said and other northern cities since January but last week they again escalated. These are industrial cities with lots of union workers but also many unemployed. Over the last days several protesters and policemen have been killed. For tomorrow the final verdict about an earlier deadly stadium riot in Port Said is expected. Should the judges find the accused Port Said fans again guilty the riots will further escalate.

The police is confused and demotivated:

'We're confused about who we are now,' one officer says. Does Morsi 'want the police to fight thugs and criminals, or crush the street protests against him?'
All over the country parts of the the police stopped policing and went into a strike. Large parts of the Central Security Forces (CSF), which has many draftees, also went on strike. Their main demands are for the interior minister to step down and for heavier weapons. In response the interior minister fired the chief of the CSF.

In Port Said the military took over some security functions. But protests continued today.

In Cairo the chefs and staff of the Intercontinental Hotel were (as a somewhat amusing video shows) having a street battle with kids/hooligans/thugs/protesters who had tried to rush the hotel.

In the South some "former" Islamic militants have taken on "police duty" and patrol the streets. In Cairo the police withdrew from guarding the Muslim Brotherhood bureau.

The Egyptian state seems to lose its means of control.

Adding to that is (another) constitutional crisis about a new election law for the earlier dismissed parliament. The legal question is one of which was first, the hen or the egg:

Article 177 mandates that the president or the parliament send electoral laws to the court to determine constitutional fitness prior to their promulgation. The SCC’s rulings on such matters are binding. Further, Article 177 makes clear that the SCC cannot entertain post-electoral challenges to the constitutionality of electoral laws.

The Shoura Council, which is serving as the interim legislative authority until a new parliament is seated, referred the draft parliamentary electoral law to the SCC for prior review. The court found several provisions of the draft law to be unconstitutional; in response, the Council amended the draft and passed the law with no further judicial review.

But the Council did not change all the parts the Supreme Court had rejected. Another court picked up on that and referred the new law again to the SCC. In consequence the new parliamentarian elections, planned for April, will likely have to be moved out several month.

The new election law is indeed unfair. While there was earlier a rule that a party had to have a certain threshold of votes in the whole country, that rule has now moved to the local district and the threshold has been set much too high. A district might have some ten parliament seats. For a party to win one of these seats it would not only have to win the direct local seat but it would also have to win one third of the total votes in the whole district. Had such a rule been in place before the last election only Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist candidates would have won seats and many local seats would have been left empty. There would have been no opposition and no minority representation at all.

Such an election law might fit the monopolization-of-power plans of the Muslim Brotherhood but it has little to do with fair democratic rules.

Meanwhile Egypt's currency reserve are going further down and a new IMF loan will not come unless Morsi introduces some harsh economic measures like lowering fuel subsidies. Morsi planned to avoid these measures before a new election round but may now run out of time.

A constitutional crisis, Morsi's lack of control over the security forces, continued protests and thuggery, economic troubles and armed militia in the streets. What is next?

Posted by b on March 8, 2013 at 01:11 PM | Permalink

Comments

The egg is first, the way the plan proceeds the finished house :)

Posted by: ruralito | Mar 8, 2013 1:50:05 PM | 1

It's a little bit like the unravelling of Germany 1919, with the kaisers government gone, replaced by the know nothing Social Democrats, a bunch of others, both left and right saw their chance.

Posted by: heath | Mar 8, 2013 4:21:51 PM | 2

The siege and counter siege of the hotel was hilarious! The back and forth of those involved was almost mideavil.

Posted by: Fernando | Mar 8, 2013 4:37:40 PM | 3

So where's the Qatari dictator when Morsi needs him?

Posted by: Amar | Mar 8, 2013 4:38:37 PM | 4

Just wait until the boys at the Mossad start playing their little games. Maybe they will bomb a Church or two. Thats when the real fireworks will start.

Posted by: Hilmi Hakim | Mar 8, 2013 4:39:38 PM | 5

The Muslim Brotherhood deserves what it is getting. They've turned out to be nothing more than a bunch of savage capitalists. (A couple days ago a wonderful article got published describing how Romney-like, neo-liberal Muslim Brothers are calling the shots. Unfortunately, Google simply can't manage to find it.)

And America's chief buffoon, John Kerry, thinks that more austerity is just the solution. Talk about a tone deaf top diplomat. Of course, as a paid agent of plutocrats, far be it from Kerry to ever admit that it was dire economic conditions that sparked the Arab Spring.

Posted by: JohnH | Mar 8, 2013 4:44:29 PM | 6

I recall Angry Arab's warning about two weeks after Arab spring spread to Egypt -- [to paraphrase] 'it is premature to call this a revolution, it may take 2 or 3 years before we know'.

Now that is prescient. We still do not know, but Egypt is starting to one of the beginning of the Kerensky government in St Petersburg in 1917.

Posted by: ToivoS | Mar 8, 2013 7:24:57 PM | 7

Egypt's problem is that the only part of the state which anyone outside the country cares about is its army-security apparatus. This is massively subsidised by the United States.
There are two reasons why. The first everyone understands: the subsidies purchase Egypt's co-operation in US-Israeli foreign policy. But the second reason is more important: the great fear in Washington is that the people of Egypt will take over their government and act rationally. This would involve prioritising the health, food and social security of the population, nationalising the banks and industry, repudiating the debt and raising, as once Nasser, in a very different era, did, the flag of revolution in Arabia.

So long as Egypt's cliques of rulers and wannabes remain in control, trying to compromise with the IMF and the "international community" or the USA, as it is more usually known, there is no way out which does not involve millions resigning themselves to galloping famine and disease and a totalitarian regime of repression compared to which Mubarak's will look very mild.

In an era of rapidly declining living standards and rigidly enforced austerity regimes Egypt has the choice, as do the peoples of Europe, and the Mediterranean basin in particular, which is either to seize power and employ it to defend their communities against misery and indignity, or to wait whilst the cannibal classes decide when to devour them and whether to work them to death, first.
To be the Hammer or the Anvil, that is the choice before them, as it is for all of us. It is very simple.

Posted by: bevin | Mar 8, 2013 7:29:23 PM | 8

"So long as Egypt's cliques of rulers and wannabes remain in control, trying to compromise with the IMF and the "international community" or the USA, as it is more usually known, there is no way out which does not involve millions resigning themselves to galloping famine and disease and a totalitarian regime of repression compared to which Mubarak's will look very mild."

Excellently put. I second what bevin just said.

Posted by: Pirouz_2 | Mar 8, 2013 7:43:42 PM | 9

Haven't been paying any attention to Egypt lately so suprised to see this instability. Not sure what to think of it really.

On one side I'm thinking that the Muslim Brotherhood won the elections fair and square, so should be given the chance to rule. Any continued instabilty on the streets will just further weaken the economy (and a weak Egypt, only helps Israel and the IMF). Yes the Muslim Brotherhood are implementing right wing economics, Yes they are helping with the siege of Gaza. But they were the largest faction in the Revolution as the polls showed. For now they probably need to make nice with Israel until they can sort the economy out, but in five or six years when they aren't as dependent on the US and IMF aid, we will see a more independent Muslim Brotherhood.

On the other side of my thinking is the hope that if the secular current succeeds they could introduce more Nasserite policies. Unlike the MB they wouldn't be in Qatar's pocket either.

Running through all this is the fear that any confrontation between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular current will only empower the Mubarack era Generals in the military and they are the real counter-revolutionary threat.

Posted by: Colm O' Toole | Mar 8, 2013 7:52:42 PM | 10

Colm O' Toole | Mar 8, 2013 7:52:42 PM | 10

I too am very ambivalent about what "should" be done. But what I think should happen in this situation is irrelevant. Events will proceed independently of that. It would be great if the unions, secular political forces, nationalistic elements in the armed forces and progressive factions inside the MB could come together into one political movement. This seems unlikely. What we are likely to witness is some very violent political upheaval that outside forces (the US, Gulf emirates, England, France, Israel and lesser groupings) will try to manipulate for their own purposes. It does seem that whatever happens will be very ugly for large numbers of Egyptian people.

Posted by: ToivoS | Mar 8, 2013 9:05:41 PM | 11

How many unfed babies, sweated children, trafficked teenagers, desperate workers, tortured trade unionists and disappeared dissidents does it take to make a prosperous bourgeois family?

Or, as Almeida Garret puts it:
“I ask of the political economists, of the moralists, whether they have calculated the number of individuals it is necessary to condemn to misery, to undue labour, to demoralisation, to infancy, to crapulous ignorance, to unconquerable misfortune, to absolute penury, so as to produce a rich person. “

Posted by: bevin | Mar 9, 2013 10:12:31 AM | 12

JohnH @6:

"Of course, as a paid agent of plutocrats, far be it from Kerry to ever admit that it was dire economic conditions that sparked the Arab Spring."

bevin @ 8:In an era of rapidly declining living standards and rigidly enforced austerity regimes Egypt has the choice, as do the peoples of Europe, and the Mediterranean basin in particular, which is either to seize power and employ it to defend their communities against misery and indignity, or to wait whilst the cannibal classes decide when to devour them and whether to work them to death, first.
To be the Hammer or the Anvil, that is the choice before them, as it is for all of us. It is very simple."


Both statements absolutely true. The latter, coming to a neighborhood near you.

Posted by: ben | Mar 9, 2013 10:44:01 AM | 13


As many have said, the Arab Spring in its first manifestations is but a beginning. Egypt a case in point.

When youth unemployment rises to unbearable levels, despite OK / some education, (1) when food prices rise out of sight, when the State apparatus, in all of its forms, is experienced as repressive (rightly), when the promises of ‘modernity’ touted by international media and some demagogues or opponents aren’t forthcoming...

When Egyptians hope to follow past OECD development... Or for that matter China today, that is earn more by investing more, educating a tad more, women into the workforce, and burning energy like there is no tomorrow - all hell may follow us! - and NONE of that can be achieved, organized, agreed upon, because it ultimately is impossible, well the shit hits the fan.

More than 83 (about) million ppl in Egypt today....1950: 20 million.

They live on the coast and along the Nile, in a minuscule land strip, piled up against each other. Water is a huge issue. Egypt has the least arable land per capita in the world.

Egypt is a hefty (per capita) importer of wheat, and of food generally, half or more comes from abroad. It now imports energy (fossil fuels), after being a tiny exporter for a short time. It exports, surprise (besides cotton, very greedy in water), small fruit like strawberries (4th or 3rd exporter in the wld), more water...but imports beans and wheat...this was all a consequence of competition and grabbing profits on the world market, well it is an old story.

As is forcing small farmers off the land for economies of scale, etc. All in that tiny strip of land...and competition with Isr. managed by the US...

Fighting against corruption and for freedom and democracy cannot seriously impact these economic realities, and cannot lead to more ‘growth’, which is what everybody wants. In fact redistribution under Mubarak or elsewhere Ben Ali or Kadafi might have even been better, not that there is any clear way to compare.

From far off...never been to Egypt.


For ex.:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WikiProjectFinal.jpg

https://tinyurl.com/d39eocs

https://tinyurl.com/ct52lao (not whole article, from JStor.)

1. Education is often very cheap in energy or dollar terms.


Posted by: Noirette | Mar 9, 2013 2:45:51 PM | 14

As an article in the New Statesman points out, "over the past year, the failure of national and local government to interact with their constituencies, to empower the populace and to delegate authorities in a democratic and transparent manner continues to mean that power in Egypt has been concentrated into the hands of a privileged, political clique."

So, elections made no difference, what do you do? You engage in civil disobedience:

Clashes over calls for civil disobedience in Egypt's Nile Delta

Clashes between security forces and both opponents and supporters of calls for civil disobedience continued for the third day in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura on Monday.

[...]The calls for civil disobedience in the Nile Delta city started on Saturday when anti-government protesters blocked off the main roads in the city, including building a wall in one place to stop traffic.

Flyers were distributed across the city calling for the campaign, although those behind the calls did not identify themselves. The flyers stressed that the campaign is a legitimate way for citizens to peacefully express their grievances.

The governor of Gharbiya, Judge Mohamed Abdel-Qader, denied that civil disobedience had been taking place in Mansoura, stressing that the work is moving smoothly in all the cities of the governorates and all governmental institutes.

Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, speaking on Sunday, also denied any incidents of civil disobedience in any Egyptian city. [...]

A campaign of civil disobedience was also carried out in the village of Tahsin in Daqahliya governorate in September 2012, in protest at government neglect and a lack of infrastructure.


From what I can make out, Egypt is bankrupt. They are currently paying 13% interest on their gov bonds, when already about 25% of their annual expenditure budget goes on paying interest, as much money as they spend on gov wages (crazy).

So, no money - no honey. What are their options? The Egyptian pound is dropping fast, imports are getting increasingly expensive, with the consequence of fuel and bread subsidy programs no longer being affordable. The IMF therefore demands they are being scrapped for there to be further loans, making statements along the lines of "reform cannot be sacrificed merely for the sake of stability in the Arab countries." That's hard core.

The country's finances are so dire that Mursi in London begging for money said to the British business community “Our government doesn’t hesitate to resolve any problems and remove any barriers facing foreign investments as a main mechanism in development and achieving growth all over Egypt”.

Seems Muslim Brother Mursi will choose the IMF road - sell all state assets, pyramids and all, privatize whatever there is to privatize, remove all food and fuel subsidies, reduce the number of government employees & services, take on more loans to be in even more debt.

I suggest he gets in a mathematician who explains to him that if you are spending 25% of your income just on paying interest, while your people are starving - its game over. Default. A number of other countries will sooner or later have to make the same choice. Egypt might as well go first, after all, its in a strategic enough position on the map to not be without financial support for too long.

Kind of related news item:

STRATFOR: Egypt Is Prepared To Bomb All Of Ethiopia's Nile Dams

[...]Sudanese president Umar al-Bashir has agreed to allow the Egyptians to build an a small airbase in Kusti to accommodate Egyptian commandos who might be sent to Ethiopia to destroy water facilities on the Blue Nile... It will be their option if everything else fails

The Blue Nile, which begins in Ethiopia, contributes about 85 percent of the flow that passes through Egypt to the Mediterranean.

Ethiopia became an even bigger threat a month after the Egyptian Revolution toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 when they announced new details about the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

In April of this year Bradley Hope of the The National reported that construction had begun and that the massive project "could destabilize Egypt in a way that would make the last year of political upheaval look minuscule." [...]


Posted by: Juan Moment | Mar 9, 2013 8:36:09 PM | 15

I read that citizens in Port Said are calling for a military coup.

Like, save what can be saved - minimal stability.

Posted by: Noirette | Mar 10, 2013 11:17:24 AM | 16

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