Is Arab Spring withering in Egypt?
Hosni Mubarak may be in prison and on his deathbed, but the coalition of military leaders who long ruled Egypt with Mubarak is not about to give up power.
Egypt’s highest court—judges appointed by Mubarak—ruled Thursday that the parliament elected last year was elected illegally and must be dissolved. The ruling effectively turns legislative authority over to the military.
The action comes fewer than 18 months after the Arab Spring—a grassroots, pro-democracy uprising that spread through much of the Middle East—forced Mubarak from power and led to the nation’s first real democratic elections.
It also comes just days before this weekend’s presidential runoff election, the first chance Egyptians have had to choose a replacement for Mubarak.
Those prone to wagering on elections would do well to put their money on Ahmed Shafik, who served as prime minister under Mubarak. The same high court also ruled Thursday that a law passed by the Egyptian parliament, which prohibited Shafik and other former Mubarak allies from serving in the government, was unconstitutional.
This apparent rejection of democracy appears at first glance to be a mixed bag for Western countries. After all, the elections just voided saw Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood gain enough seats to dominate parliament. The Muslim Brotherhood has been notoriously hostile to the West and to Israel, and has been linked to Islamic terrorism.
Furthermore, Egypt under Mubarak and his military allies was among the closest allies the United States had in the Middle East. But Mubarak was a strongman who ruled Egypt with an iron fist. Egypt’s prisons were filled with political prisoners, and his forces were notorious for using torture and beatings on opponents of the regime.
’ In that regard, Thursday’s court decisions are a definite blow to the citizens of Egypt who risked their lives a little over a year ago to march in the streets of Cairo and demand a real voice in the operation of their government.
The fact that many of them chose candidates belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, one of many groups systematically repressed by the Mubarak regime, shows how much they despised Mubarak and his military cohorts.
We fear that Egypt’s court and military leaders haven’t weakened the Muslim Brotherhood and similar groups. In all likelihood, they have made them stronger and more popular in the eyes of millions of Egyptians.