It was not surprising that a coup took place in Tunisia with the contribution of the Egyptian regime which fueled and supported it with all its might. This is the same regime that allied itself with Omar Al-Bashir, the former President of Sudan, and when interests differed, it participated in a coup against his authority three years ago, fearing for the fall of Sudan under the tutelage of civilian rule, like what happened in the cradle of the Arab Spring, Tunisia, in 2011.
This is the same regime that changed the Egyptians’ direction towards Syria, from overthrowing Bashar Al-Assad’s rule, which exterminated and displaced millions of Syrians, to supporting it with weapons and money. And it is the regime that supports the militarisation of power in Libya and the attempt to impose Khalifa Haftar, the rogue general, on the country, despite the popular will of the Libyans to establish a democratic life that unites them and does not divide them.
It is no longer a secret that the Egyptian regime, which fought Saudi Arabia in Yemen in the 1960s to transform the front line into a republic run by the military, is now allying itself with the kingdom, its former arch enemy, to obtain money that would enable it to eradicate the spirit of the Arab Spring revolutions that blew up the people of the region. It overthrew the heads of four ancient regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen and was on its way to Syria and several Arab countries such as Algeria. Its influence appeared in the countries of the Arab kingdoms such as Morocco and Jordan.
For a long time, Arabs have considered that the Egyptian regime, which was formed after 1952, has a revolutionary approach, especially since the military, which seized power on July 23, 71 years ago, announced at the beginning of their reform movement that they aimed to establish a healthy democratic life and prevent political corruption that led to the deteriorating conditions in the country. The Free Officers Movement pushed a military figure acceptable to public opinion, Major General Muhammad Naguib, and they succeeded in marketing their project, gradually by abolishing the monarchy, followed by the dissolution of the parties and the prohibition of all political forces that they considered remnants of the bygone era of feudal lords.
The status of Major General Najib Al-Shaabi did not satisfy him in becoming the first political-military prisoner, when he demanded in March 1954 that they return to their barracks and return to full political life in the country. To whitewash their project, they raised the banner of progressiveness and support for national liberation projects in Arab countries, Africa, and even around the world, with their participation in pioneering the project of the Non-Aligned Countries in 1955 in Bandung.
Nevertheless, the Free Officers Movement continued to question the possibility of its control over the country, until a war broke out. Suez in 1956, which was used politically by Gamal Abdel Nasser, was helped by international circumstances and Security Council resolutions that obligated Britain, France and Israel to withdraw from Egyptian territory. With that decision, a military regime was established in the region that plans to stay in power forever.
The military has become the successor of the current historical era. The heir to Abdel Nasser came in the military and his partner in the July Officers Movement, then his successor Mubarak, who was head of the Egyptian forces in the October War of 1973, which restored the military regime’s popular legitimacy, which it lost after the denied defeat by Israel on July 5, 1967. Despite the 30-year rule of Mubarak, and some attempts to bequeath his son to power, like Syria and Yemen, he could not. The fault of the heirs, in the eyes of the military regime, is that they did not join the army.
Their father knew the difficulty of this demand, as Mubarak himself said that he did not think about this issue at all, because he knows that the army will not let his sons rule outside his circle. That is why when Mubarak stepped down from power in the face of popular and international pressure during the January 25 revolution, he ceded power to the armed forces and could not leave it in the hands of his deputy, Omar Suleiman, who held the position of Director of General Intelligence, because in the eyes of the military, power would be handed over to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and no one else – Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.
With his ability to control the government, and remove the politically most powerful Brotherhood in the country, which is able to compete exclusively with the military in political life and the desire to participate in managing the affairs of the country, the military launched a sweeping attack on all the political currents that participated in the events of January 25, although many including especially the liberal and leftist currents contributed strongly to the removal of the Brotherhood’s rule, and some of them participated in burning their headquarters, prosecuting its leaders, and throwing them in prison.
The military regime revealed its old identity, which was not apparent to some politicians who defend the role of the army in running the country, and their belief that the July 23 regime has progressive ideas aimed at liberating the Arab peoples from backwardness, class and colonialism. These ideas fell with the first real test in Egypt, when a civilian authority contested the army leaders in power and made them feel that they are just an institution subject to the accountability of the parliament and the people, and that its role should be limited to protecting the country from threats on its borders and leaving the internal arena to other sovereign and civil security agencies.
The Egyptian regime dealt with civil society “as an enemy that must be pursued and exhausted inside battles and wars of attrition until it fails to devote itself to its main battle, which is political and social reform as a Human Rights Watch report shows. The regime launched an attack on 26,000 associations registered during the Mubarak era and pursued political activists in the case of “foreign funding,” which the judiciary acquitted of the charge of working illegally, because it was working with notification according to the law, yet the case has been open for 10 years, to continue pressure on prominent personalities in the public and human rights fields, in particular, to prevent them from talking about the democratic path and defending detainees who are overcrowded in Egyptian prisons, which human rights organisations estimate at about 60,000 detainees, with cases bearing “a one-line accusation, spreading false news, joining a banned group, and misusing social media.” To support the military state, the regime regained control of all media, whether it be audio, visual, written or social media, private, partisan or semi-governmental, all of it is under the military administration and the General Intelligence.
Since 2015, the regime has begun pursuing private websites, amending the constitution and laws to ensure the transformation of the military institution into an authority above the constitution, ensuring that the next president is from the army or agrees to his candidacy, and assumes control over all authorities in the state to ensure that it is not exposed to any political risks in the future and transforming them into entities that manage the country’s economy, and distributing resources and projects to the liking of the leaders of these institutions without being subject to any parliamentary or administrative oversight.
The military regime embarked on deepening its policy of rebellion with “repression from the source,” according to the term defined by the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression in its report on the violations that citizens were subjected to in the second quarter of 2012, and for eight years, against the background of expressing their opinions or publishing content on the internet and the social media.
The regime violated citizen’s right to know and access information, imposed guardianship over the behaviour of citizens through social media applications, prevented the publication of what was going on in the courts without a written order from judges, and amended laws to grant the administrative authority to dismiss employees suspected of belonging to a terrorist group determined by the law of the system, and amended the Emergency Law makes the rulings of the Supreme State Security Court final and irrevocable and may not be appealed or overturned, without a petition from the president.
The regime has expanded the placement of lawyers, media professionals, businessmen and human rights defenders on travel ban lists, seizing their money, and rejecting any solutions proposed by international organisations, and many American and Western pressures aimed at improving human rights conditions, prompting two major human rights activists who have been under investigation for 10 years in the “foreign funding” case, to make a statement to the BBC two days ago, that reliance on improving human rights with any foreign intervention is futile and ineffective.
The head of the regime, and after him the chorus of media professionals and senior state officials, began to promote that the Egyptian states took it upon themselves to “change the misconception about democracy that the West made and is trying to impose on the people of the world, and it has one side, which is the political only.”
Sisi seeks to emulate what the communist regime in China says about democracy, which considers that its rule runs the largest democratic gathering in the world through elections organised by the party among 100 million people, whom it considers representatives of about 1.4 billion people. “There is no political democracy until we solve social problems, feed hungry mouths, develop slums and improve roads,” Sisi says.
Sisi considers that achieving social justice is the way to eliminate political conflicts, which he considers destroying society and increasing division among Egyptians. Researcher Amr Deghidi mentioned on July 27, that what the regime is currently practicing is “real democracy in which social justice is achieved, first among the citizens who are emancipated in it.” Who exploits the exploiters and enables them and through them to possess their freedom and exercise their will without compulsion or coercion or the pressure of need resulting from poverty, unemployment, and destitution?
Although military rule in Egypt has been repeating these slogans for 70 years, no drastic changes have been achieved in the lives of the Egyptian people. Two-thirds of the people still suffer from living under extreme poverty or at the poverty line level, according to United Nations reports, but it “exploited the Arab-Israeli conflict and the multiple confrontations that took place between the two sides in the militarisation of the Arab mentality and what kept it away from democratic visions,” says Dr. Shafeeq Ghabra, professor of political science at Kuwait University.
The military regime also blames the Islamist movement for not expanding the political movement, accusing it of extremism and that it is behind the absence of democracy, not in Egypt but in the entire region. He also resorted to obtaining the support of the rich Gulf States, after realising that the wealth in their hands enabled them to control their citizens at the expense of the natural development of civil society. The military regime continues its refusal to modernise any aspects of the structure of the political system. Rather, it works to modernise the form, which is what political science experts call “the modernisation of the dictatorship.” To do so, he fights any revolutionary or quiet regime that tends to establish a civil democratic system, which he is trying to destroy in Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring revolutions for years, while supporting fascist regimes, as in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Yemen and Libya.
The impact of the Egyptian regime was clear in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index of the Economist magazine in 2018, not only on Egypt but on the Middle East and North Africa region. The report shows that even though Arab people have awareness of the need to “live with dignity and the desire to modernise their political system.”
However, the counterrevolutions burned many gains, especially with the absence of freedom of expression. No Arab country came in the list of full democracies, which includes 30 out of 165 countries. While Tunisia ranked first in the Arab world and 63 globally, Egypt ranked 127 and Saudi Arabia is at the bottom of the list at 159. The report justified the decline in the democracy index in Egypt and elsewhere, due to the fragility of the regimes and their inability to interact with the new generation who are serious about living a sound democratic life. The report warned that the absence of a system of culture of accountability for the ruling elites and the burning of counterrevolutions to the gains of the Arab Spring revolutions, will inevitably lead to an explosion greater than any Arab Spring, and in a more violent, mass and revolutionary manner.
These warnings came before Kais Saeed’s coup against the constitutional system in Tunisia in July 2021, which made an elite of Egyptian politicians demand that a coup against the constitution and the will of the people be avoided, even though the Egyptian regime and its men in the parties and elite close to it and its media arms openly blessed the coup and supported it strongly. It pushed the Tunisian president to continue implementing his plan to change the system of government and the constitution brought Tunisia back to a place that is worse than the Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali era, despite international opposition to this coup and the demand for the return of constitutional legitimacy and political stability in Tunisia.
Algeria rejected the Egyptian position and considered it interference in the affairs of a country it considers at the heart of Algeria, despite Egypt’s blessing of the Algerian regime for the measures it took to prevent the revolutionary movement two years ago. The UAE and Saudi Arabia supported the Egyptian position and promised to support Kais Saeed as it did before with the new Sudanese regime.
Egypt was unable to support its coup project in Tunisia under European and American pressures. The Egyptian elite witnessed a split, as some liberals conflated their hatred of the Islamic trend, represented by the Ennahda Party in Tunisia, with support for the need for Tunisia to continue its democratic path by eliminating political corruption and solving its economic problems. At the same time, Hamdeen Sabahi, the former presidential candidate and one of Sisi’s supporters in the 2013 events, warned, “My heart is with Tunisia, the revolution that survived all the revolutions of the Arab Spring that was hijacked by the counter-revolution.”
Others called for the fact that the setback of the revolution in Egypt should not be behind the desire to attack it in Tunisia, because “the experience of Tunisia, unlike the Egyptian one, was characterised by the ability to coexist between the parties and to search for compromise solutions without falling into the illusion of victory with a fatal blow, which is what the Tunisian parties need now.” The position of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic trend receded between cautious anticipation and fear of the success of the coup in Tunisia.
Half a month after the coup in Tunisia, serious indications appeared that the coup would not pass as planned by Kais Saeed and his supporters in Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia, especially since the army stood away from the conflict after the dismissal of the Minister of Defence and a number of security leaders at the same time it disrupted parliament and removed the head of government and put all executive and judicial powers in his hands.
However, the Egyptian model will not inspire the creation of a new dictator in Tunisia, similar to what Sisi did, due to the difference in popular culture and the role of the distant military institution, which has no will to interfere in the political authority and its distance from the Israeli issue that the Egyptian military institution plays with the major countries. As the protector of a peace agreement that most of the Egyptian and Arab people are not satisfied with, the Islamic forces are trying to break their restrictions and attract the masses by declaring an Islamic holy war against Israel, which would push the international system to maintain military rule in Egypt to protect its interests and ensure Israel’s security. Nevertheless, the Egyptian regime will remain a unique model, holding power in the country, unable to bring about radical changes in the revolutionary or Arab regimes in general without regional and international alliances.