How Deep is Your State?

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Originally posted on Arab Spring in my Step, David’s blog while in Cairo, on Saturday 16th of June.

After three weeks of a bitter Presidential election campaign Egyptians go to the polls today, only days after what some are calling a “soft coup” here in Cairo.

The place seems jaded and anxious on this historic weekend.

However last week’s dissolution of the elected parliament has yet to bring many protesters onto the streets. The Muslim Brotherhood (who have most to lose from this dissolution) has not called for protests yet, maybe wisely considering their man Mohamed Mursi goes head to head with the candidate of the old regime Ahmed Shafiq in the election this weekend.

As a corrective to the “soft coup” hypothesis, it might be worth checking out a perspective from the left here, which makes the reasonable argument that the military has actually been in charge since the day Mubarak was ousted in February 2011.

The “deep state” of vested interests connected to the old regime, is well…very deep indeed.

I will be reporting in detail this weekend for the Sunday Business Post, next week for Liberty and on radio on ‘Today with Pat Kenny’, from a country rife with talk of an imminent military coup (despite the fact the military are already in charge), where people are electing a president (despite the fact there is no constitution) and where a parliament has been dissolved (despite the fact it was elected just over 7 months ago). It’s isn’t easy making sense of Egypt.

Almost every single Egyptian I have spoken to over the past fortnight say they think that Mubarak’s former PM Ahmed Shafiq (essentially the candidate of the deep state) will win. They seem surprised that I bother asking the question.

If he wins, he has promised “security” back on the streets within days. This will be cheered by many, who feel that Egypt has become more dangerous since the revolution. However the police forces that will be redeployed- have not been substantial reformed since the revolution.

A revolution, it must be remembered, which was against the police state. Not only that, this police force, had to live with the ignominy of being on the back foot over the past 16 months. Their pride has most probably been hurt.

But for those in the revolutionary movement – a Shafiq victory would represent “counter revolution”, a betrayal of the martyrs of the revolution and their families (see some Downtown Cairo graffiti above and below), and plunge the movement into some very dark and dangerous waters indeed.

Someone said on Twitter the other day that trying to make predictions about politics in Egypt is ridiculous, considering how difficult it is just to keep up to date with what is actually happening every day.

So no predictions here- we will most likely know in less than 48 hours the name of the new President, and in days it will become clear if his victory is accepted by his opponents, or whether it sparks more instability.

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