The MB’s sectarian language, the increase in sectarian incidents, the attack on the St. Mark’s Cathedral in April, Morsi’s failure to react to a sheikh who called Shi‘a “filth,” and the entirely useless response to the Sh‘ia lynchings in June were all important indications of an unwillingness to rein in fringe extremist elements on the Islamist scene. Most significantly they showed that Morsi was never interested in representing all Egyptians. But again, Morsi inherited a tradition of state discrimination and sectarianism from his predecessor, he just cranked it up several thousand notches.
Some may argue that free and fair elections, if properly conducted, are fully capable of producing a government that reflects the promise of the January 25 Revolution and its partisans. Yet this line of reasoning conveniently overlooks the distortive role that electoral politics play in pushing out of the national political arena issues and agendas that concern socially marginalized classes.
The experience of the 2011/12 elections is a case in point. The failure of partisans of distributive justice, such as the Revolution Continues Alliance, to secure meaningful representation in Parliament speaks to a reality in which big money and parties of privilege — whether Islamist or secular — dominate the electoral arena, making it extremely difficult for political allies of the marginalized to really succeed in national politics.
In such a context, the liberal prescription of free and fair elections confronts an insurmountable paradox: How can elections create a national political arena capable of resolving pressing conflicts over economic and social rights if those who lack and demand these rights are constantly crowded out of this same arena by default? In this respect, the power that liberals attribute to free and fair elections to resolve the social conflicts that are tearing Egypt apart today is little more than an illusion.
For those who have just tuned into the news this week, the warnings of a military return may be a jolt. But, for those who have been watching Egypt for the past two years, these concerns are far from the realities on the ground. For one, the military never left the political realm, even after President Morsi’s inauguration on 30 June 2012. In fact, the political basis for Morsi’s rule today is a pact between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. The former controls the presidency and the sectors of the bureaucracy that do not pose a direct challenge to its interests. The military retains its abnormal political and economic privileges, including its vast economic empire, far from any meaningful civilian oversight.
I started my shift with Opantish at around 7:30 last night. We did not wrap up until after 3:00 in the morning. We received forty-six reports of cases of mob sexual assault in and around Tahrir. We were able to intervene in around half, in coordination with other groups such as Tahrir Bodyguard. Some attacks involved the use of blades, sticks, and other weapons. One case had to go to the hospital and underwent surgery and several others needed medical attention. Some volunteers were also wounded in the process. The square became undeniably unsafe for women.