Watching the internet light up following official claims that Mubarak was "clinically dead", it was impossible not to think of the classic Simpsons double episode Who Shot Mr Burns. Near the start of the second episode Springfield’s anchorman Kent Brockman tells us "Burns was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was then moved to better hospital, where doctors upgraded his condition to alive." The main difference being that in Mubarak’s case the first hospital was inside a prison and the second was not.
During his reign, it was illegal to spread rumours about his health. Since his downfall such rumours have been constant. As a result, many were sceptical. Ismubarakdead.com didn’t flinch. Their page confidently stated "NO" throughout.
Of course, it is possible the geriatric autocrat’s condition did deteriorate, and even as official sources claimed, that his heart stopped. This raises the question whether a normal Egyptian prisoner would be rushed out to a military hospital in the same situation. Has no one ever died before in an Egyptian prison hospital? Given the reliability of official statements in Egypt we don’t have much more of a reason to believe this narrative than we have to hold, as this author and others have speculated, that Mubarak is a zombie.
What is certain (and far more important) is the way the regime he once led has risen from the grave over the last few days, hungry for brains — not that it was ever really dead. The political storm that New Matilda and others saw brewing in Egypt as the final runoff in the presidential elections approached, has broken at last.
Martial law has been declared. Soldiers, police and their armoured vehicles have been deployed in even greater numbers than usual. A series of judgements by the Supreme Constitutional Court, and decrees issued by the junta, have upended everything that the transition process had so far achieved. Parliament has been decreed dissolved (though many parliamentarians are contesting the legitimacy of this). SCAF has moved selflessly into the breach, reluctantly offering to take up not just parliament’s duties, such as choosing the committee to write the new constitution and control the budget, but many of the president’s duties as well (assuming one emerges).
The SCC also ruled that the parliament’s political exclusion law, aimed at preventing former regime cronies from participating in elections, was unconstitutional. This cleared the way for Ahmad Shafik, Mubarak’s last-minute Prime Minister, to run for the Presidency.
Both he and the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsy, are now claiming victory.
It should be noted here, that the Brotherhood organisation has credible pollsters who presented a detailed breakdown of their calculations, and a transparently conducted independent tally also put the Islamist ahead by around a million votes.
It’s not clear how much this will matter much to Shafik’s backers however, be they self declared "felool" (remnants of the old regime and their supporters) or those who supported the call for democracy, and then grew fearful of the rising power of the Islamists.
They will wait for the Special Presidential Election Committee (SPEC) to announce the official results, which are expected in the coming days. (They were scheduled for Thursday, but have been pushed back). This is the same SPEC whose credibility was called into question due to its conduct after the first round of voting, following serious allegations of irregularities. Some accounts that implicated the SPEC itself were dismissed within days, without any credible investigation presented.
Their statement, should it back Shafik, will carry little weight with the Brotherhood and their supporters. Over the next week or so, it is very possible Egypt will see two presidents sworn in: Shafik before the assembled judges of the Supreme Constitutional Court, and Morsy before the now "dissolved" parliament. The long feared clash between the regime and the Brotherhood appears to have arrived. The authoritarian shit has hit the Islamist fan.
As I type this military vehicles are massing on the main roads in and out of Cairo, just like during the "18 days" of protest from 25 January 2011 until the dictator’s ouster by the military on 11 February. These vehicles, of course, are funded by the American taxpayer, as part of the US$1.3 billion a year in official military aid (there is possibly more coming from the Pentagon’s "black budget"), which forms the keystone of the deeply rooted Alliance between the US and Egypt.
This American involvement is far from peripheral. Egypt’s authoritarian regime has long been a pillar of the US hegemony over the region. It has guaranteed amicable relations with Israel, despite its constant aggression. Indeed, Egypt has active cooperation in occupation, including enforcing the criminal siege of Gaza). The military also guarantees American access to (and influence over) the critically important Suez canal. The regime has even been a champion of the American led Neo-Liberal program in the region, and had praise heaped upon it by the IMF and World Bank.
There have been mild statements from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the effect that the United States is committed to democracy in Egypt, but these gentle prods are not backed with anything. Indeed in march, Clinton waived an attempt from congress to link American aid to Egypt’s military (they are the second largest recipient in the world, after Israel) with the transition to democracy. While this was probably also motivated at least in part by that most central commandment of American politics — thou shalt give as much money to arms companies as possible — it is also a reflection of the important role the Egyptian Military serve in the American Empire.
In the Che movies featuring Benitio del Toro, a scene near the end of the first movie shows one of Batista’s generals informing his subordinates that he is no longer taking orders from the dictator. He is directly on the phone to the US Embassy. Something along these lines undoubtedly took place during the 18 days, with the military and the imperial superpower deciding to ditch the dictator to save the regime. The difference is, in Egypt it worked, at least for the short term. The military, with implicit US backing, is now moving to close the deal, and crush Egypt’s flowering democracy.
Egypt’s revolution, it seems, may like Che and Who Shot Mr Burns need to be broken into two (or more) parts. The looming question now is whether The Empire Strikes Back will be the next title.
Four months ago Austin was arrested for "inciting riots" in Egypt – a charge that carries a potential gaol sentence of seven years. The Australian Government has remained silent on the charges. Offer your support to Austin, his translator and colleagues here.
Donate To New Matilda
New Matilda is a small, independent media outlet. We survive through reader contributions, and never losing a lawsuit. If you got something from this article, giving something back helps us to continue speaking truth to power. Every little bit counts.