With Sisi as Field Marshal, Egypt’s presidential stage is set
Now with Sisi as a Field Marshal, the stage is set for a presidential election that results in a strong ruler
Just days after dozens were killed in Egypt during the third anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, Egypt's interim president Adly Mansour issued a presidential decree promoting General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief and minister of defense, to the rank of Field Marshal. This appointment is significant as the credentials prepare Sisi for early presidential elections. Clearly, the government is moving quickly to cement the presidency and then to hold parliamentary elections. One should note despite the violence, thousands and thousands of Egyptians are supporting Sisi for president with placards and commentary including loud screams of support.
The “flip-flop” in holding the presidential election before the parliamentary vote signals the need to secure the country quickly to maintain law, order, and security. Mansour announced that presidential elections will be held before parliamentary polls -- an amendment to the transitional roadmap which was agreed upon by various political forces on last July 3, 2013.
According to Mansour's decree, the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) should begin procedures to hold the polls in no less than 30 days and no more than 90 days following the successful passage of the country's newly-amended constitution. The constitution was put into effect on 18 January -- after a two-day referendum on Jan. 14-15 which yielded an overwhelming 98.1 percent majority approval of the charter. Accordingly, the presidential polls should take place between Feb. 17 and April 18, 2014.
The promise of a stable and democratic Egypt much depends of the ability of the current leadership to deliver on the promise of fair and democratic presidential elections, as well as keeping the military as the most important political actor in the future of the country.
Regionally, Egypt can be an important contributor to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, while internationally they remain as the sole guarantor for secure transition through the globally important Suez Canal with a robust presidency. Thereafter, the referendum on the amended version of the 2012 constitution will be a key step towards the solution of the crisis.
The presidential election of Sisi means that the Egyptian military will try and most likely succeed to preserve peace throughout the country as the parties which boycotted the referendum will likely want to further express their revolt.
With presidential elections held, the success of the referendum will be based on clear and clean results. This political setting supports a military-led roadmap to democracy. Many of the parties which have shown support for the referendum aim at successful participation in the presidential elections expected in the coming months.
The relatively high turnout at the referendum is a result of a combination of beliefs spread throughout the majority of the masses: most believe that the removal of President Mursi was the right move; the army is the only one able to guarantee security within the country, as well as beliefs that a continuously strong position of the army in Egypt is good for the people. Not less important is the support for Sisi by those who would want to see him becoming the next president.
‘Jump-starting’ the process
Given that aid to Egypt is needed, with the GCC states donating billions of dollars over the coming three to five years, other aid will be needed. It is hoped by “jump-starting” the presidential election process that the U.S. and Europe would support Egyptian process which leads towards a democratic Egypt.
Regardless of how small the steps might be, the U.S. is likely to prefer a stable transition over a serious of violent counter-revolutions. Moreover, the Egyptian security forces will have to be able to continue securing the Suez Canal, and deny opportunities for attacks on ships as happened last year by the al-Furqan Brigades.
Although the referendum has not solved any dividing issues in the Egyptian society, it has opened the doors towards holding presidential and parliamentary elections. The strong position of the army would likely drive the masses towards going to the polls when the date is officially set.
The process of organizing the elections will be the key towards keeping a safe and relatively stable society. We must remember that all nations experience torments and tribulations. Just look at Ukraine. But Egypt is a special case; the 1952 revolution, the 1956 war, the 1967 defeat, the 1973 war and various riots, uprisings, and terrorist attacks. The nation managed to triumph over such ordeals, either through historic leadership or significant decisions, but most importantly with the Egyptian military.
Now with Sisi as a Field Marshal, the stage is set for a presidential election that results in a strong ruler to maintain control over a core state of the Middle East; a state that cannot be lost to mob warfare, terrorism, and urban and rural chaos. Some may argue that the Egyptian army cannot be the tool for change in the current regional order, but for those who can clearly see what needs to be done to preserve the cultural, political and security order of Misr, than Sisi is the answer at this time. That reason is why presidential elections are to be held sooner rather than later.
Dr. Theodore Karasik is the Director of Research and Consultancy at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) in Dubai, UAE. He is also a Lecturer at University of Wollongong Dubai. Dr. Karasik received his Ph.D in History from the University of California Los Angles.
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