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Case Analysis 06 March, 2014

Behind the Resignation of Beblawi’s Government

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The Unit for Political Studies

The Unit for Political Studies is the Center’s department dedicated to the study of the region’s most pressing current affairs. An integral and vital part of the ACRPS’ activities, it offers academically rigorous analysis on issues that are relevant and useful to the public, academics and policy-makers of the Arab region and beyond. The Unit for Policy Studies draws on the collaborative efforts of a number of scholars based within and outside the ACRPS. It produces three of the Center’s publication series: Situation Assessment, Policy Analysis, and Case Analysis reports. 


Introduction

The resignation of Egyptian Prime Minister Hazim Beblawi on February 24 signaled the new regime’s decision to move past the June 30 alliance now that it has fulfilled its function, which started with the coup against Mohammed Morsi and ended with the adoption of a new Egyptian constitution that consolidated and expanded the privileges of the deep state, with the military at the fore.[1]

The adoption of the new constitution in mid-January marked the culmination of the military-backed June 30 alliance’s endeavors to consolidate its rule. Violent suppression, accompanied by media campaigns to squeeze the life out of demonstrations against the sabotage of Egypt’s democratic process proved successful. In practice, this meant there was no longer a need for the June 30 political alliance, which in essence coalesced around one objective: putting an end to Brotherhood rule.

The resignation of the Beblawi government thus makes the military’s monopolization of power, and its attempt to circumvent the transitional road map, even clearer. The secularist political forces behind the road map were supposed to be partners in administering the transition and ruling as a civilian body, after the adoption of the draft constitution and agreement on laws regulating upcoming legislative and presidential elections. This new development means that the coup authority, which severed its relations with the January 25 Revolution, has now begun to sever ties with the popular mobilization of June 30.


Turning the Page on June 30

The removal of the Beblawi government indicates that the prevalent view of its status as a puppet for the military, or Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was not exactly accurate. Rather, this government was indeed a partner in running the country, but with the adoption of the new constitution, its purpose has been fulfilled. The military needed a civilian “front” to deal with the economic, social, security, and political challenges that had deteriorated since the military coup, and the ability to use this body as a “front” should things go wrong. The military found this convenient since it was busy strengthening its economic and political influence within the new Egyptian regime.

Beblawi’s government tried to present itself as having a clear strategic vision to take the country from chaos to stability, and was in the process of a landmark achievement in handing power over to civilian bodies. In its seven months in office, however, the government had really only one clearly delineated plan: to decimate the leadership and membership of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the revolutionary youth.

Following the alliance’s success, Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi began hinting at his desire to stand for president, which did not bode well with some of his supporters in Egyptian political circles. Popular Current leader Hamdeen Sabahi’s equivocal statements in early February, followed by his decision to run for president on February 9, evidenced this disapproval. Egyptian media, in addition to some political forces from the National Salvation Front, launched a vitriolic campaign against Sabahi. There was zero tolerance for his nerve to compete against al-Sisi since total loyalty to the army was expected from the political forces that had allied with the military to remove the elected regime.

Within the above context, Beblawi’s government decided to resign. Realistically, the transformation of state institutions into a chorus of support for the “savior president”—giving him the credit for current achievements and blaming any failures on the government and its head—pushed Beblawi out.  This constitutes the final nail in the coffin of the June 30 alliance, following Baradei’s departure and the April 6 Youth Movement’s defeat. The government’s departure also meant the exit of the three Nasserist ministers summoned by the coup authority to show that the June 30 revolution was a correction to the course of the January 25 revolution. Key figures from the first revolution were appointed in the government: the higher education portfolio went to the March 9 Movement Leader and Nasserite Hossam Eissa (also known as the man behind removal of university guards from campuses before the revolution); Nasserite labor leader Kamal Abu Aita became minister of labor; and Ahmed al-Borei became minister for social solidarity.

During Beblawi's term, Minister Hossam Eissa clamped down on student demonstrations, and issued an order for the return of university security on the grounds that university property and demonstrating students needed protection. With al-Borei standing next to him, Eissa also declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group. Minister Kamal Abu Aita ordered several employment protests to be broken up by the police and army. In this fashion, the post July 3 authority used these ministers as lip service in the fight against the Brotherhood, using them to suppress the protests that followed the coup. With their dismissal, the June 30 alliance was dissolved and the beginning of a new order embraced. The coming phase will see the return of NDP figures, with most candidates for the new government coming from Mubarak’s regime, such as Ghada Wali[2], the new minister for social solidarity and Ashraf Mansour, the new minister for higher education.

It would appear, then, that the new Egyptian regime is done having a partner in running the country, effectively creating a new government will constitute nothing more than a tool to prepare for the presidential elections, or, more accurately, to prepare for al-Sisi’s election.


Egypt’s Political Complex: The Presidential Hegemony

By suspending, and ultimately dissolving, the 2012 constitution, in addition to their removal of an elected president, the secular political forces have lost the chance to put an end to the hegemony of the presidency over Egypt’s political life. While the constituent assembly charged with writing the 2012 constitution was careful to evenly distribute executive powers between the government and the president, the new constitution makes the cabinet more akin to an executive body for policies set by the president, as was the case under Mubarak. Additionally, the Beblawi government changed its position after the new Egyptian constitution was adopted. Prior to the referendum, interim president Adli Mansour took over the tasks of the presidency only to have these powers taken away and given to the office of the interim president, which had begun increasing the army’s economic privileges and granting it the right to act and intervene in major economic projects.

The centralization of the Egyptian political regime has been restored despite the revolution’s attempt to regulate and curtail it. Judging from recent trends, it is hard to imagine the presidency allowing another body, including the cabinet, to participate in power-sharing. It comes as no surprise, then, that the various power bases, including the army and the old regime, are eyeing this office longingly. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s desire to run for president is also predictable, even though the new Egyptian constitution guarantees his tenure as defense minister for eight years, in addition to other constitutional guarantees that strengthen the privileges of the military and make it the guardian of the other state institutions.

The Egyptian political regime, therefore, has two choices, both of which depend entirely on whether al-Sisi will stand for president or not. If he does not, the new president will face the challenge of recreating a network to ensure that he can govern. At that point, there will be no choice but to reach an understanding with the institutions of the deep state to avoid a repeat of President Morsi’s experience in office. If he does run for office, Egyptians would likely head toward an authoritarian government that supersedes that of Mubarak because the president would be “elected” with a grip already in place over the deep state, the army, presidential powers, and the populist media.

*This Assessment was translated by the ACRPS Translation and English Editing Department. The original Arabic version published on February 28th, 2014 can be found here.

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[1] ACRPS Policy Analysis Unit, “A Comparison between the 2012 and 2014 Constitutions,” Assessment Report, ACRPS, January 15, 2014, http://172.17.30.6:3030/sites/doiportal/en/politicalstudies/pages/egypt_a_comparison_between_the_2012_and_2014_constitutions.aspx.

[2] Al-Wali is the sister of Sharif al-Wali, secretary of the NDP’s youth wing in the same district and one of those accused in the Battle of the Camel.