A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Egypt is Not Algeria and This Isn't 1992

Today the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been leading demonstrations to protest the dissolution of :Parliament and challenge SCAF's amended constitutional declaration; many see this as the beginning of a power struggle between the Brotherhood and SCAF. It may be, but it also may be a case of the two institutions testing each other's will before making some sort of accommodation. That would make far more practical sense to both than an open conflict does.  One thing I do not anticipate, but that many Egyptian commentators on Twitter and elsewhere keep mentioning, is a repeat of what happened in Algeria in January 1992.

The long and bloody Algerian Troubles began after liberalization led to victories by the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), first in local elections and then in the first round of legislative elections. Before it could win a certain victory in the runoff round, the Army deposed President Chadli Benjedid and took over. In the decade that followed, 150,000 to 200,000 people are estimated to have died; the 1990s were a devastating decade in Algeria.

Trying to see what is happening in Egypt as a parallel is not very persuasive. Though many are calling SCAF's  power grab a coup, it is really just the military retaining the power they have been exercising since Mubarak's fall. The runoff round of the Presidential elections was held. Morsi may well be declared the winner; if he is not, then open conflict is possible. But I don't think it's inevitable.

Algeria is a very different country. A decade of struggle for independence from France produced a country in which war for political ends was part of the legacy of the nation. Protracted civil war has been rare in Egyptian history and nonexistent in the past several centuries. The Army has not fought a war since 1973 (the internal "war" against radical Islamists in the 1990s was mostly fought by State Security).

The Brotherhood has waited 84 years to arrive at the brink of power. Is it likely that it would throw that away unless it is clearly and blatantly denied even a share in power, which hasn't happened yet?

Ask me again if, on Thursday, the electoral commission names Shafiq the winner. Right now I think the Brotherhood wants to show its strength, bare its claws but not use them; it's maneuvering for a partnership with SCAF, not a protracted war with it.

I can understand that a large number of Egyptians do not find a joint SCAF-MB system a congenial one. Nor do I.  Half the country in round one voted for neither Morsi nor Shafiq.  But Algeria 1992? I think not. But let's be candid: no one is sure what the next few days will bring.

More importantly for over a year SCAF and the Brotherhood have managed to work tp

No comments: