Sara Khorshid writes: Preliminary election results show that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi is likely to become Egypt’s next president. But even if Mr. Morsi is declared the official winner later this week, Egypt’s first popular presidential election will not have been a democratic milestone.
With the Supreme Court’s ruling dissolving Parliament and the military’s declaration curtailing the presidency’s authority, Mr. Morsi will be a toothless figurehead under the thumb of an authoritarian military council that doesn’t seem likely to relinquish power anytime soon.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has tightened its grasp on power, giving itself control of legislation and the national budget, the right to appoint a panel to draft a new constitution, immunity from democratic oversight, and the power to veto a declaration of war. The new president is also expected to have no say in foreign policy and on relations with the United States, which gives Egypt $1.3 billion in annual military aid.
The military’s unwillingness to cede power and allow a genuinely democratic government has been clear for months. Yet the United States has continued to support the council — indeed, American-made tear gas canisters are still being used by the Egyptian authorities to suppress anti-military protesters.
When I voted “no” in the referendum on constitutional amendments last March, just weeks after the longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak was ousted, it was a vote against the entire military-led transition process that set off the continuing legal mess that culminated in the recent dissolution of the Brotherhood-dominated Parliament and in the military’s seizure of sweeping legislative powers.
The amendments and the referendum marked the beginning of a process that led Egyptians and the world to falsely believe that Egypt was being democratized. On March 19, 2011, many Egyptians proudly showed off their inked fingers to symbolize participating in a referendum that they thought laid down a “road map of transition to civil, democratic rule,” as members of the council like to call it.
But that twisted road map was always intended to suppress the Egyptian people’s aspirations by delaying a democratic transition and dragging Egyptians along a path determined by the military. The referendum and the parliamentary and presidential elections have kept the people distracted by the trappings of democracy. [Continue reading…]