I must give it to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) - I underestimated them by miles. While half the revolutionary forces were dead scared of the Muslim Brotherhood possibly winning the presidency with Morsi and the other half scared Shafiq could win - the real power that is still holding Egypt in its grip was overlooked: the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces with their power hungry generals.
Two days before the presidential elections, which possible outcome I discussed in my recent blogpost, the High Constitutional Court in Cairo ruled on June 14 that Egypt's Parliamentary Elections Law was unconstitutional with a third of the MPs having to give up their seats. In the consequence of this ruling the Egyptian parliament was immediately dissolved and tanks were positioned around the building with the army barring MPs from entering.
It was clear that the ruling made by judges appointed still by Mubarak had the consent of SCAF, even though the generals were quick to state that they were not happy about it - but nevertheless used iron force to make sure parliamentarians were not able to enter parliament anymore.
What no one had expected and took everyone by surprise and into a shock came true: the people of Egypt went into voting for a president in a country that had neither a constitution nor a parliament. An unprecedented affair!
But as if this was not yet enough trouble, the SCAF thought up even more. On the evening of the second voting day (June 17), shortly after the polling stations finally closed at 10 pm, SCAF issued an amendment to the Constitutional Declaration - basically stripping the new president of his powers and securing almost all powers - including the legislative - for them alone. Egypt was without parliament, not yet decided on who won in the presidential election and with a constitutional situation no one had ever voted for. To put it bluntly: the SCAF had taken over Egypt and staged a 'coup'.
In my assessment in my blogpost I had contemplated the idea that SCAF could plan a coup after the president was elected and rejected this for what I thought were sound reasons. Never in my wildest dreams however did I come up with the idea SCAF could stage a 'soft' coup already before the president was even elected! That indeed was a move by SCAF that took me just as much by surprise as basically everyone else both in Egypt and abroad. In fact this move scared the Obama administration so much, that they issued a clear warning to SCAF that aid could be frozen if the army was not to change this course and hand power over to a civilian government!
I - and obviously even the closest allies - truly underestimated both SCAF's power hungriness and their ignorance. For while I thought SCAF would not want the world to see them as the ones destroying the transitional process in Egypt, from the above actions it has to be deduced that either the generals couldn't care less after all or were and are just too stupid to understand the impact their takeover has regarding their image in Egypt and the world.
As I write, Egypt is in a state of chaos. One week after the end of the presidential elections it is still not clear which candidate made the race. The SCAF controlled Higher Presidential Election Commission (HPEC) keeps postponing the announcement of the winner and rumours that Morsi won and Shafiq won run wild. Whatever the outcome will be, it seems certain that the win will be by only 1 or 2 percent, leaving the winner with somewhere around 51% or 52%. Which - obviously - means that the loser is having almost just as much supporters behind him as the winner. Egypt will be divided in two and the camps are lashing out at each other now already with full hateful force.
Currently, while everyone nervously waits for the result to finally be declared, it is almost firm belief that the win will have nothing to do with having gotten 49% or 51% of the votes. Instead it is taken that SCAF is feverishly working out behind the scenes what to them would be a more bearable outcome of the election on the long run - and according to that the winner will be announced. Period.
Not to mention, that rumours coming from army sources already are spreading that the president - whoever it is finally going to be - will only be a 'transitional' one who won't be in office for longer than a few months. After seeing that the democratically elected parliament was dissolved only a few months after it was elected - many think because the dominant role by islamists was not to SCAF's liking - it is not too incredulous to believe that SCAF will also dispose of the democratically elected president once they find a solution for the next political vacuum this would create.
Yesterday SCAF issued a statement justifying its latest power grab and warning the people of Egypt from revolting and disrespecting the authorities. "We will face anyone who will pose a challenge to the public and private sectors with an iron fist."
A coup by SCAF? I was sure they would not go that far. But seeing what they have done before the president is even announced and hearing the rumours of what could be expected after the president is declared, anything seems possible at the moment. The Muslim Brotherhood made clear it will not take the dissolving of the democratically elected parliament hands down. What that will mean in the end regarding a power clash with SCAF should Shafiq and not Morsi be declared the winner, is anyone's guess.
The catastrophe for Egypt is not near, it will have to wait, I wrote only 12 days ago. It seems as if years have passed since then. And no one at the moment can give any prediction as to where Egypt is going and what one will have to expect for the future. Only one thing is certain: the generals of SCAF hold on to their privilege with a might and force that can be deemed scary. And they show no scruples in disregarding anything a democratic society is made of. While they pretend to be the protectors of the revolution, in reality they have so far proven to be nothing less but its most dangerous enemy.