After the Egyptian Elections: Egypt Teeters
Egypt’s historic presidential election was overshadowed by court and military decisions that many Egyptians feel amount to a countercoup.
Egypt’s elections, which should have brought stability and direction, may have done exactly the opposite!
Last weekend was expected to complete Egypt’s first-ever democratic presidential elections—or so it was believed. The candidates were Mohammed Morsi of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood (aka the Freedom and Justice Party) and Ahmed Shafiq, who served briefly as the last prime minister under former leader Hosni Mubarak early in 2011.
The two candidates emerged from the first round of voting in May. Under Egypt’s newly crafted political system, the two highest-polling candidates advanced to the final round, which took place over the weekend of June 16 and 17. Egyptians voted their choice, yet the election may well have served to polarize, rather than to unify.
Mr. Morsi is viewed with suspicion by Egyptians who don’t want to see their country go down the Iranian path toward a theocracy, with suppression of women’s rights and loss of personal freedoms.
Mr. Morsi protests that he will not lead his country that way. “I will stand at an equal distance from all, and will be a servant to all Egyptians,” he declared in a television interview Monday. The Islamist candidate is distrusted by Egypt’s minority Coptic Christians as well as liberals and secularists who were opposed to the Mubarak regime.
Mr. Shafiq is in some ways even more controversial than Mr. Morsi. He is viewed as a counterrevolutionary by many, and his brief (33-day) stint as Mubarak’s last prime minister has heightened suspicions about his revolutionary credentials. He has had shoes thrown at him in public, and his Cairo offices were ransacked and burned in late May.
Early returns from the election indicate a narrow victory for Mr. Morsi. On Monday, Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram news agency was reporting a vote of 52.3 percent for Mr. Morsi and 47.7 percent for Mr. Shafiq. It was a low-turnout election that brought fewer Egyptians to the polls than the parliamentary election in December 2011 and January 2012.
Later that same day, the Muslim Brotherhood reported a 51.8 percent majority for their candidate (compared to 48.1 percent for Mr. Shafiq).
Overshadowing the election
Yet what might have led to a clean sweep for the Muslim fundamentalists, who won an overwhelming majority in parliament, was overshadowed by judicial rulings and decrees by the military.
Last week Egypt’s Supreme Court shocked many by issuing two rulings—one that invalidated the earlier parliamentary elections and another that permitted Mr. Shafiq to run for president despite his role in the detested Mubarak regime. Many Egyptians felt the Supreme Court’s rulings amounted to a countercoup, rolling back the democratic advances initiated by the Arab Spring.
Military flexes its muscles
This week, right on the heels of the presidential elections, the military stepped in and redefined the role of president, stripping the office of real power. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), traditionally respected by many, is now accused of meddling in politics and opposing the march of democracy.
The SCAF issued a declaration stating that it “retains the power to make laws and budget decisions for the country until a new constitution can be written and a new parliament elected.”
Clipping the wings of politicians, the SCAF declared that its members “‘shall decide all matters related to military affairs, including the appointment of its leaders.’ The president has the power to declare war, it says, but only ‘after the approval of the SCAF.’ In the event of unrest in the country, like that which preceded Mubarak’s ouster, the president can involve the armed forces to provide general security, but only ‘after receiving the approval of the SCAF,’ it says” (CNN.com, June 18, 2012).
Where is Egypt headed?
With Egyptian tourism suffering, the economy in a tailspin, no constitution, a contested presidential election and increased intervention from the now-disdained armed forces, Egypt is adrift, heading into uncharted and unpredictable territory.
The immediate future is murky and uncertain. Yet we know from Bible prophecy that certain features of the present Arab landscape are here to stay.
For example, the role of religion in Middle Eastern politics is certain to strengthen, despite the opposition of Arab secularists. It seems we are set to witness a rerun of the religio-political conflicts of the Middle Ages, involving alliances between church and state (and mosque and state) in both Europe and the Middle East. The victory of the Egyptian Islamists will almost certainly not be the last.
Religion and the “king of the South”
The “glue” that will bind the end-time “king of the South” foretold by the prophet Daniel (Daniel 11:40-43) will be more than just enmity with the Jewish people and opposition to Western power and influence. It will involve religion.
Prior to the crisis at the end of the age, it will be religion—dubbed the “opium of the people” by Karl Marx and underestimated in its influence by modern commentators in both North America and secular Europe—that will spur great wars. There will be no notion of a separation of religion from politics once the wheels begin to turn, leading to a great power base in Europe and a competing one in the Muslim world. The Bible foretells just that.
In the meantime, let’s keep our eyes on Egypt and the Middle East. As Jesus Christ exhorted us, “Watch!” (Mark 13:37).
For more about what to watch for in the Middle East, see our section on the “Middle East” in Bible prophecy.