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Egypt headed for years of unrest

No wonder the Israelis and Americans loved former Egyptian president Mubarak so much.    He was compliant - and a crook personified! - and kept the "natives" quiet.  So what if the country was corrupt, and poor, even if the USA poured billions into it by way of aid.  Things have changed post the Arab Spring, and not for the better on one level.    Juan Cole, writing on truthdig, predicts years of unrest in the country of pyramids, Luxor and the Nile. 

"On Tuesday, a hot air balloon flying over the ancient city of Luxor, Egypt, exploded and plunged 19 foreign passengers to their deaths, an event that will further harm the country’s limping tourist industry. The tragic balloon fail is an apt metaphor for the political process in Egypt, which has been marked by highhanded and arbitrary decisions on the part of elected government officials. President Mohamed Morsi met Tuesday with those few members of the opposition who would sit down with him, an attempt to mollify the guests with respect to the country’s new law governing elections, which, they maintain, disadvantages them. The rest of the opposition says it is withdrawing from parliamentary elections scheduled for April.

Morsi’s decree in November temporarily putting himself above the law, his decision to push through a controversial constitution that lacks consensus support, and his new elections ordinance, have provoked huge demonstrations, strikes and boycotts. This turmoil, in turn, has hurt Egypt’s key tourism industry, reducing proceeds from $12.5 billion a year before the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak to $10.5 billion a year after. The announcement by the nation’s leftists and secularists that they will not contest this spring’s elections for the lower house of parliament is a disaster that could plunge Egypt into years of unrest.

Morsi is from the Freedom and Justice Party, the civil wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. He has announced parliamentary elections in four rounds beginning in mid-April. The National Salvation Front, a coalition of leftist and liberal parties, has objected that the elections law issued by Egypt’s upper house of parliament gerrymandered the nation’s electoral districts so as to benefit the Muslim Brotherhood. The upper house of parliament has many Brotherhood representatives, and about half its number were appointed by Morsi late last fall.

Gerrymandering and other attempts to influence the outcome of elections are a fact of life in democracies, and do not always succeed. Barack Obama was able to prevail in Florida and Pennsylvania in the 2012 election despite Republican Party ploys such as voter identity laws and reduced poll hours. The National Salvation Front’s conviction that it can deny legitimacy to the government by boycotting the balloting is misplaced. Its leaders, including leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, may believe that they can, by refusing to cooperate, wring concessions from Morsi before the vote. But to go into these elections without a campaign organization is suicide for the left and other secularists.

Egypt has lurched from crisis to crisis in the wake of the Feb. 14, 2011, overthrow of the Mubarak regime. Although the uncompromising and domineering political style of the religious right in Egypt, embodied in the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, bears a good deal of the blame for the country’s deadlock, the faintheartedness of Egypt’s left in the face of the upcoming parliamentary elections is also at fault."

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