David Hearst writes: The Nile Palace Bridge, where some of the fighting in Egypt’s revolution took place, is today a popular shrine. The bedlam of street life in Cairo, a city of 12 million people where traffic lights are an afterthought, is amplified on this bridge.
Kids taunt each other by hanging off the bridge over the fast-flowing Nile. They could not have produced a better image for the revolution itself. A year and a half on, it is perilously poised.
On Thursday, two days before voting in the second round of the presidential elections, the army and the old regime showed their hand by getting the judges they appointed to the constitutional court to declare the parliamentary elections – won overwhelmingly by the Muslim Brotherhood – null and void. The court went further and ordered parliament’s dissolution, even though it may not have the power to do that.
At a stroke, the gameplan of SCAF – the ruling military council – became clear for all to see. If parliament were dissolved, the constituent assembly drawing up the constitution would be abolished with it. If on Monday the army’s candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, is declared the winner, the old regime would have conducted a clean sweep of the revolution: the power to order new parliamentary elections, the power to rewrite the consitution and the presidency. A counter-revolution in all but name.
For some observers like the columnist Fahmi al-Huweidi, signs of the counter-coup were apparent before the constitutional court’s decision. “Journalists who were paid by the old regime and who had disappeared from the media for over a year suddenly began resurfacing with a barrage of articles saying why they were supporting Shafiq. Who gave them the courage to speak out like this? It would be have been impossible a few months ago.”
Another sign was a bizarre declaration on Wednesday by the justice minister empowering all members of the security and armed forces and police to arrest any civilian causing trouble in the streets – a power not seen since emergency rule, which Egypt has only just abandoned. It was as if they were anticipating trouble.
But the move may be backfiring. The Muslim Brotherhood did not take the bait by withdrawing its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, from the race, thus handing the presidency to Shafiq – although there were fierce arguments within the movement at their headquarters in Moquatom in Cairo to do just that.
Instead, the quiet technocrat Morsi came out fighting in the early hours of the morning. He said the Egyptian people would not allow a counter-revolution, and if the weekend’s vote was rigged in favour of Shafiq, the brotherhood would call everyone out on to the streets and the revolution would be “stronger” than it was before. [Continue reading…]