Egyptian Army Has the Final Say Ahead of Presidential Elections
There was a reason that an air force general stood behind Omar Suleiman, in full view of the camera, as Suleiman announced on live television that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had been forced aside by the army. The Egyptian military didn't trust him. Even though he was a military man himself, he had been one of Mubarak's most faithful confidants. To the Egyptian ruling military council, his loyalty was compromised.
That night, last February 11th, as crowds were singing and dancing in the streets, in the back rooms of the halls of power, it waschaos, uncertainty, and suspicion reigned.
To ensure that Suleiman had no second thoughts, the Egyptian military placed a very stern and threatening air force general just over Suleiman's shoulder.
The message was clear. Egypt's Supreme Council of Allied Forces (SCAF) was in charge and if your oath to the army was in doubt, you didn't have a say.
Of course, most analysts and even many Egyptians likely knew this all along. But the military's deft handling of the days leading up to and immediately following the revolution won them the good graces of millions of Egyptians thankful that the army didn't open fire on the protesters in Tahrir Square.
The honey moon would only last a few short months. Soon after the revolution, protesters' appreciation for the army keeping a semblance of order began to collide with their demands for rights and for a new democratic Egypt.
As reports of continued torture, increased military tribunals, virginity tests on female protesters, and major crackdowns on demonstrators in Tahrir Square persisted, demonstrators redirected their anger not only towards Mubarak and his henchman but the entire army establishment.
All the while, the Egyptian army said they were not the enemy and were at one with the people. The army, the generals implored, had the impossibly hard and unenviable task of balancing the need for rule of law and the people's aspirations for a transition to democracy, but that nevertheless, they were committed to such a transition.
Today, the veil has been lifted and the obvious intentions of SCAF revealed. After a year of pretending otherwise and with a little over a month to go until the presidential elections, SCAF arrogantly and unilaterally barred 10 presidential candidates (including three considered front runners), thus ignoring the wishes of the Egyptian people and flatly rejecting the democratic process.
The head of the Presidential Election Commission, Farouk Sultan, made the announcement without reason or justification for the decision, but none was really needed.
Thirteen candidates still remain in the race, but will it really matter? Will the race be fair? Whether or not Egyptians recognized it last Februrary, the man behind Omar Suleiman was an ominous foreboding that even without Mubarak and through all the ensuing chaos, the Egyptian military still has the final, and only, say in Egypt.