Egypt’s game of thrones

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

The Egyptian armed forces have called for calm following last week’s coup which ousted President Mohammed Morsi after millions of people had taken to the streets to demand his resignation. Morsi and most of the top leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested on suspicion of incitement to violence.

Mohammed Morsi became Egypt’s first Islamist president on 30th June 2012, after winning the election that followed the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. But Morsi’s moves to introduce Islamic laws and concentrate power in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood and their cronies enraged the liberals and secularists who have once again joined hands with the poverty-stricken peasants and urban poor who make up the vast majority of the 82 million plus population of the country.

The armed forces have picked top judge Adly Mahmoud Mansour to succeed Morsi and promised a quick return to civilian rule. Mansour is proposing a six month period to amend the Brotherhood drafted constitution that has now been suspended. A new constitution would then be put to referendum. A general election will be held next year to elect a new parliament and presidential elections will follow.

But the Muslim Brothers and their Freedom and Justice Party are refusing to take part in any interim government until all their leaders are freed. And scores of people have been killed and thousands more injured in clashes between the security forces and supporters of the Brotherhood in Cairo and Alexandria.

Across the Arab world Syrian President Bashar al-Assad welcomed Morsi’s downfall, calling it “fall of so-called political Islam” while the Saudis and Qataris, who support a rival Islamic fundamentalist movement in Egypt, have cautiously welcomed the new government along with the other Gulf oil princes.

The recent mass protests that led to the army’s intervention were called by the Tamarod (Rebellion) movement, which said it had collected a 22-million strong petition demanding Morsi’s resignation.

The secular National Salvation Front, which has communist support, welcomed the army action while the broadly- based opposition Tamarod movement accused the ousted president of pursuing an Islamist agenda against the wishes of most Egyptians and of failing to tackle Egypt’s grave economic problems.

Egypt’s communist party also backed the coup stating: “Our Party congratulates the masses of the heroic Egyptian People on its epic victory and great triumph over the forces of tyranny, sectarianism and underdevelopment, as our great people rolled up, today, an abhorrent page of their history to restart their path towards achieving the objectives of their great revolution of real democracy, human dignity, social justice and a multitudinous open modern civil society.”

The armed forces have played a leading role in Egyptian politics for decades. It began with Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Free Officer Movement that overthrew the hated monarchy in 1952 and never really ended when former air force commander Hosni Mubarak was forced out by mass pressure during the “Arab Spring” of 2011.

Their current leader, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, claims to have no long-term political ambitions, and would be seen by the imperialists as a safe pair of hands. But military dictatorships are not the chosen instrument of US imperialism these days because senior officers are only answerable to themselves.

The imperialists would prefer a venal and craven “elected” regime that willingly does the bidding of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and allows its economy and natural resources to be plundered by the big capitalist corporations of the United States and the European Union. This accounts for the cautious response from the White House and the chancelleries of western Europe to the coup and the repeated calls for a speedy return to civilian rule and fresh elections.