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Egyptian elections show sweeping gains for counterrevolution

Dave Stockton

DESPITE MASSIVE mobilisations in Tahrir Square and other city centres in November and December, Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) still maintains its illegitimate rule. The focus of the popular upsurge was to force SCAF to withdraw from power and hand over to a genuinely independent civilian government. The generals, however, just reshuffled their stooges and hope to carry on as before.

SCAF has continued to violate its promise to lift the state of emergency, in force since 1981. Military courts continue to try civilians for political crimes, and thousands are detained and mistreated in jails and military prison camps. Late last year, dozens more martyrs have been added to the list of those who have died for the revolution.

But the repression continues to generate resistance. The brutal mistreatment of a young woman demonstrator in Islamic dress, viewed by millions, shocked the county and brought 10,000 women onto the streets in Cairo, and 6,000 in Alexandria. They forced SCAF to give an apology and promise an investigation – although such assurances are invariably worthless.

SCAF also ignored calls to delay parliamentary elections, which began on 28 November. They took place under former president Hosni Mubarak’s undemocratic system, which officially prohibits parties based on class politics and falls well short of embodying universal, equal and direct suffrage.

New parliament
The Freedom and Justice Party, led by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), was the biggest winner, with 235 seats or 46 per cent of the 508 seats in the new parliament. But the more radical Islamists (Salafists) of the Al-Nour Party won 123 seats, or 24 per cent of the deputies. Far behind lag the secular bourgeois liberals of New Wafd Party with 38 seats and the Egyptian Bloc with 34 seats. The Revolution Continues, a bloc of reformist socialist groups, won nine seats.

This gives Islamists a huge majority to steamroll undemocratic and socially reactionary policies through the Assembly. And if the MB candidate were to win the presidential election too, then this could have dire consequences for the youth – including the young women – who made the revolution, and for activists of the growing workers’ movement.

Of course the huge Islamist majority could also prove a problem for the SCAF. Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and his cronies clearly want only a parliamentary façade for the continued rule of the military, which controls 30 per cent of the country’s GDP. But there are rumours of divisions within the army, with some younger figures advocating an alliance with the MB, a withdrawal from public day-to-day politics and the adoption of a “behind the scenes” model of rule, like that of the Turkish army’s cohabitation with the Islamist Justice and Development Party.

MB leaders, while they certainly want a compromise with the military, have a mass base with much more radical expectations. In addition, the electoral surge of the Salafists, who are more openly opposed to the army, puts the MB under pressure. The MB dare not simply let itself be turned into a cover for the generals.

This contradiction will dominate debate over the new constitution during the next six months.

Meanwhile the threat of a backlash against the revolutionary youth and the working class is very real. The only effective response is for the Egyptian working class to continue to organise and mobilise on a mass scale, and for the youth and union militant vanguard to create an alternative centre of power to that of the government and the army.

A revolutionary party is essential to make the case for this struggle. For without the emergence of dual power in which the workers, peasants, youth and ordinary soldiers look to an alternative source of authority, SCAF and any civilian government working with it may acquire just about enough momentum to bring the Egyptian revolution to an end.

Such a revolutionary party must take its programme and key slogans to the masses, addressing their main economic and social demands, as well as defending their democratic rights. It will have to be capable of surviving assaults on its legality, in conditions where the state’s repressive forces have survived 2011 largely intact.

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