The Army of Egypt is engraved in the history and economy of the country, as well as in the imaginary of the people. Whether the army is the future or the destiny of Egypt is another question.
Would the tendency of Egyptians to create a cult around a figurehead perhaps shape their destiny? And is it possible that the desire for security overrides the process of democracy building?
Is the army merely a necessary short-term step towards the completion of the revolution?
Jan 25 - Feb 11, 2011 – Egyptians stage nationwide demonstrations against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Hundreds of protesters are killed as Mubarak and his allies try to crush the uprising.
Feb 11, 2011 - Mubarak steps down and turns power over to the military. The military dissolves parliament and suspends the constitution, meeting two key demands of protesters.
June 30, 2012 – Morsi takes his oath of office.
Nov 22, 2012 – Morsi unilaterally decrees greater powers for himself. The move sparks days of protests.
June 30 – Millions of Egyptians demonstrate, calling for Morsi to step down. Eight people are killed in clashes outside the Muslim Brotherhood's Cairo headquarters.
July 3 – Morsi doesn’t meet ultimatum set by the military which would oust Morsi, suspend the constitution and impose interim technocrat government.
I. Army and Religion
What are the links between the army and religion in revolutionary Egypt ? Considering the high level of politicisation of the two sets of institutions, we have agreed that they are both seeking people’s approval as a governing tool. Might the army use religion as a tool to favour its acceptance by the Egyptian people ?
We want to investigate whether the army has the necessary legitimacy to use the religious institutions. We also want to know whether the religious establishment (Al Azhar, the Grand Mufti, the Coptic church) has the power to backlash against the army if it drifts away from it.
In Egypt, the french « laïcité » is widely seen as a ferment of divisions rather than unity. Political institutions have thus become highly politicised, adopting the role of actual king-makers. Has this link been altered by the recent revolution ?
Considering the great degree of religiosity of the Egyptian people, religious institutions’ consent to a certain ruling group has become ever-more prominent. The army, in its attempt to present itself as the true representative of the Egyptian people, badly needs this support. How will the links between the two groups evolve in the future ?
II. The Army in Egypt – A Historical Perspective
History is the faithful witness of the military hegemony in Egypt. It stems from the depths of Egyptian history, only to be reinforced by the mid-twentieth century. The army is more than a mere state apparatus; it's a symbolic entity. It is psychologically and morally anchored in the people's way of thinking and how they view the world. Since 1952 the Free Officers appear to have been the first military dissidence to gain fully power and legitimacy from all social strata that form the civil society. In the context of the region's conflicts that we see today, charismatic figures such as Neguib , Nasser or Sadat have shaped how power is perceived and will encourage the link between head of state and the sight of military uniform. The army will reaffirm its status one war at a time and will become, little by little, n essential part of the society; more than a symbolic entity, the army is a monopoly.
Through its omnipresence and its economic self-sufficiency, the army succeeded in imposing itself in egyptians' hearts and minds. Simply by being able to provide for the people, the army became essential for the stability and well-being of the population. It has become a fundamental part of society and of both politics and economy. More than a monopoly, the army is a state within a state. This sentiment has only been attached to the Egyptian army since the Yemen War, when the citizens asked to be able t fight alongside the army in a demonstration of patriotism and support for their homeland. This, all in spite of the fact it was the army who bankrupted their state. Officers already in service install themselves in the bureaucratic sectors and account for 65% of all officials.
The state and army now exist together; you cannot entirely distinguish one from the other, although whilst this bond may seem unbreakable, it is at the same time extremely fragile. Is the army's presence a temporary democratic insanity or is it what Egypt is destined for?
History shows that Egypt has never lived without the military institution. Will the future bring change or cement this bond?
III. What is the Role of the Army in the Revolution(s) ? What About a Potential Cult of Personality
Objectively speaking, it is Impossible to deny the Military intervention in different major stages. Even though the Army already had a positive image in the Egyptians vision, its decision to not to shoot the demonstrators after the 25th of January strengthen its position at the beginning with the motto: “the people, the army, a single hand”. Moreover, it is the Army which organized the democratic transition until the elections in which the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed Morsi would then win.
On the 30th of June 2013, with the pressure of the movement Tamarrod, millions demonstrated in the streets and showed their disillusionment with the current government. Again, the Army will support the people declaring an ultimatum for Morsi to resign. This event will also shine a light on the General Abdel Fattah Al Sissi, Defence Minister and future field marshal. He thus carries the image of the strong leader of Egypt even though he is not the President, and this brings us to the question of the cult of personality.
In January 2014, a Constitution, said “made for the Military”, is voted by a referendum boycotted by the opponents. However, who are exactly these opponents?
The Muslim Brotherhood: declared to be a terrorist group and chased by the State.
The “secularists”: too divided and unable to find a consensus.
The “young revolutionaries”: disappointed in general and feeling that their opinion does not have any real impact.
What could then be a viable alternative to the Military power, especially as Al Sissy eventually renounced to his military uniform and announced that he will run for President in the elections of the 27th and 28th of May 2014? Is being exposed in such a way really in the interests of the Army? Anyhow, it seems clear today that the Army decided to impose itself and that it does not give anymore the place for uncertainty.
IV. Civil Society: A Homogenous Entity?
Definition: Civil society is constantly evolving; it is the subjects of many debates. It has no precise definition, but we can take as a starting point Larry Diamond’s definition: civil society is the sphere of organized social life, based on voluntary participation, spontaneity, self-sufficiency, autonomy. We will try to study the relationship between Egyptian civil society and the army, which has continuously changed after 1952 then with Sadat's Infitah policy.
Some movements in the Egyptian civil society:
Kefaya ("Enough"): it was founded in 2004. It is an opposition movement to the government of Hosni Mubarak. Kefaya is accused of being an elite group, which does not represent the will of the majority, the poor, and the people. Their goal was to end the state of emergency and to have free press and media.
The 6th of April: Unlike Kefaya, this movement represents youth. Its founders include Asmaa Mahfouz, a major figure of feminine Egyptian youth. This movement introduces itself as "young people brought together by the love of the Nation"
After the 2011 Revolution: After the Revolution, several political parties were founded, which was the symbol of freedom and determination despite the difference in ideologies (left, right, political Islam). Among the parties and coalition: the democratic revolutionary coalition, the Islamic bloc including Al-Nour party, Freedom and Justice and Construction and Development)
With the military council running the country after the revolution, the real conflict appears between the military and the civilians. Three major events marked this period
1. The military trials against civilians and the fight for the right of having fair civil trials.
2. The problem of foreign funding of civil society organizations by "illegal" means.
3. The Maspero events on the 9th of October 2011, as a response to the Coptic anger day, and the confrontation between the military police and the Coptic.
Therefore, civil society had one single purpose: getting rid of the military council by electing a civilian president who would continue on the revolutionary path the military lost. In the second round of the elections, Mohamed Morsi was elected, rather that his opponent, Ahmed Shafik; ‘the military man’.
Tamarod and the civil uprising against the civilians: Tamarod is a movement of Egyptian opposition which fought for the withdrawal of confidence of Mohamed Morsi. They were able to collect 22 million signatures. A division inside the civil society is especially noticed after Sissi decided to be a candidate for the upcoming presidential elections.
The situation in Egypt still seems to be complicated. There is always this problem of choosing an alternative to the army, especially with the division of civil society, not only between islamists and liberals, but also between two different visions of two different generations. With "’Eich, Horreya, ‘Adala Egtemaya", the 2011 Revolution was against a military regime. Let us not forget that the goal was to establish a civil state based on democracy, something that suits the Egyptian context. Yet, especially with the emergence of Sissi who seems to be a good "alternative", this goal seems to be abandoned by many Egyptians, who are ready to accept a new military regime. This looks more and more like a vicious circle. Therefore, are people really convinced by the establishment of a civil state as an alternative to a corrupt regime?