Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Joschka Fischer on the Egyptian revolution now

Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer writes on the state of affairs in Egypt in Egypt after Morsi Project Syndicate 07/26/2013. As usual, he has some well-informed reflections:

Underlying the contradiction between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood is not only the question of religion, but also all of the social problems, including inequality, that riddle Arab societies. The Brotherhood has effectively assumed a role similar to that of left-wing European political parties in the nineteenth century. Whoever wants to weaken the Brotherhood has to address the urgent social issues that it raises and try to solve them.

This means that whatever solution ultimately prevails will be measured according to whether it can solve the economic crisis (particularly the lack of job opportunities for the young) and deepening mass poverty. The chances of this are slim.
Fischer is not saying that the Muslim Brotherhood is a leftwing party in today's political sense. They are a Muslim fundamentalist group of a definite conservative cast. American Republicans seem weirdly confused on that point.

Fischer describes the risks this way:

No one should deny that what happened in Egypt was a military coup, or that forces from former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime have returned to power. But, unlike in 2011, when the few pro-Western liberals and huge numbers of urban, middle-class youth rallied against Mubarak, now the same groups support the coup, lending it a certain (democratic?) legitimacy. Nonetheless, the overthrow of a democratically elected government by the military cannot be glossed over.

So what options does Egypt now have? Will it repeat the Algerian tragedy, in which the military canceled an election to prevent Islamists from assuming power, leading to an eight-year civil war that claimed up to 200,000 lives? Will the country return to military dictatorship? Or will Egypt end up with something like a Kemalist "democracy" of the type that long prevailed in Turkey, with a civilian government but the military pulling the strings? All three alternatives are possible, though it is impossible to predict which one will come to pass.

But one thing already can be said for certain: the basic distribution of power within Egyptian society has not changed. The military and the Muslim Brotherhood divide power between themselves. The Western-oriented liberals do not have any real power and stand, as we are seeing now, on the army’s shoulders. We should not forget that Morsi’s opponent in the presidential election in 2012 was Ahmed Shafik, a former general and the last Mubarak-era prime minister – certainly no liberal. [my emphasis]
The German version of Fischer's article is here, Die Rätsel der Sphinx.

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