The prospect of
Many had hoped, wrongly, that the army which facilitated the removal of Hosni Mubarak by standing aside from the January revolution, would step aside once parliamentary elections had been held. "The army and the people are one hand," many chanted when Mubarak quit.
But there was too much at stake for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) to allow that to happen. They are part of the Egyptian ruling class in the most literal sense, owning large chunks of the economy.
As much as one-third of
In a secret cable dated September 2008 signed by U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey, the embassy in
Other military companies produce small arms, tank shells, and explosives — as well as exercise equipment and fire engines. These companies add up to "a very large, unaccountable, non-transparent Military Inc.," says Robert Springborg, author of Mubarak's Egypt: Fragmentation of the Political Order.
The generals "will try to massage the new order so that it does not seek to impose civilian control on the armed forces," he said in February. "It's not just a question of preserving the institution of the army. It's a question of preserving the financial base of its members."
And that is just what has happened. Next Sunday’s scheduled elections would result in a powerless parliament and a military that is exempt from political oversight and control, according to a protocol that the generals got the interim government to sign up to.
The army has been tightening its grip on power since Mubarak was overthrown. They have processed 12,000 civilians through military tribunals, more in 10 months than the former president managed in his 30 years of rule.
Outspoken critics are in jail while blogger Maikel Nabil has been on hunger strike for almost three months in protest against military trials. There are official bans on strikes and demonstrations and the army provoked sectarian violence against Coptic Christians as part of its divide and rule strategy.
Some activists now realise that the euphoria of January masked the tasks that still lay out ahead. “We handed power to the military on a silver platter," said Ahmed Imam, a 33-year-old activist, of the January uprising. "The revolutionaries went home too soon. We collected the spoils and left before the battle was over."
The removal of the army from power will require a strategy that goes beyond the creation of a parliamentary democracy. In itself, that would not be able to deliver on the needs of the Egyptian people in terms of jobs and a better standard of living.
A parliament that leaves economic relations unchanged would, be at the mercy of global banks and the International Monetary Fund, as is patently the case already in countries like
As the November revolution gets under way in