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The parallel state in Egypt

For quite some time we have been fighting for the people's right to know what is going on in the country yet we have recently discovered that we possess exaggerated aspirations and that we must humble ourselves in light of the new regime for it is not our right to demand the people's rights if the government itself does not know what those rights are. At least this is what we are told in light of interim Prime Minister, Dr Hazem Beblawi's resignation, which not only took us by surprise but also surprised ministers and possibly even the president as well.

On Monday morning, February 24, Prime Minister Beblawi announced his resignation just hours after the Egypt Independent published an article on its front page entitled "Beblawi: No consultations for rearranging parliament until now".

Under this title, the article claimed "Dr Hazem Beblawi emphasised that there has yet to be any parliamentary changes until this point and that, in reality, what exist are two vacant parliaments, one that pushes for military action and another that works towards international cooperation.

"Beblawi also stressed that it is highly likely that a third ministry will soon become vacant [the Ministry of Defence in the event that General Al-Sisi is nominated for the presidency]."

The newspaper published exclusive comments made by Beblawi stating that the government has worked in an on-going basis and that it has made amendments to certain laws that will have a positive impact on economic investments very soon.

The information provided by Beblawi came in light of what we all thought to be true in the last few weeks, in that he was supposed to fill his post until the upcoming elections (most likely to be held in April) and that any amendments to the government would come in the form of filling empty vacancies including the presidency.

What happened to Beblawi was much like what happened to the Constitution of 2013 in that the roadmap indicated a few constitutional changes only for us to learn later that the constitution had been replaced with a new constitution entirely.

Beblawi had been confident that he would remain in his post, which is evidenced by the fact that his agenda for this week included a trip that was scheduled for today to Nigeria. Beblawi had intentions to attend the African Peace and Security Conference (the trip was arranged and a delegation travelled just hours before his resignation). Due to the fact that this planned trip was scheduled at the same time as the weekly meeting of the ministry council, the meeting was convened earlier than initially planned on Monday.

The meeting, which normally begins by announcing the points on the agenda, was instead opened by a speech given by Beblawi, in which he emphasised that the on-going emergency conditions facing the country call for the ministry's collective resignation.

His speech took everyone by surprise because, not only was there no prior mention of indicators suggesting the need for such actions, but he also did not explain the nature of these emergency conditions to his fellow ministers.

Because Beblawi's speech intended to inform the ministry of this need to resign and not to negotiate or discuss the issue, the meeting did not last more than 15 minutes. Ministers later returned to their desks in order to collect their papers.

This decision not only surprised the ministers but also surprised all those concerned with this matter. No one expected that, with the article published that morning about parliamentary changes and the scheduled trip to Nigeria, everything would change by noon, without any explanation or justification.

People have been trying to guess what happened since the news broke out and no one can quite figure things, which has opened the way for several interpretations. As far as I know, the situation was decided upon in a meeting on Sunday evening between interim President Adly Mansour and Beblawi.

As for what happened in that meeting, it remains an absolute mystery, which would be impossible to interpret at this point. There are doubts as to whether Beblawi truly resigned or whether he was removed from his post. According to a televised discussion, which was broadcast that evening, suspicions are leaning towards the belief that Beblawi was removed from his post as opposed to resigning.

The surprises did not stop there. In fact, we noticed that a new prime minister was announced hours after the government resigned and that no nominations or considerations were previously announced concerning this matter. This means that Beblawi and his government, like us, were among the last people to be informed of this sudden change.

What has happened has led us to note the three following points:

  • The entire political scene was a mystery to us and because of this we are in dire need for transparency, which sanctifies society's role in the decision-making process. We do not know who issued this decision nor are we aware of the emergency circumstances that necessitated its execution. We do not even know what and how the consultations took place. All we know is that this decision was made in secret and that this plot was agreed upon at the beginning of the week. The issue that raises more than one question is that we are not sure who is currently running the state and to what degree the parallel state and the deep-rooted security state will be fused into one.
  • What we are currently witnessing are changing faces in the government and not changing policies. The government was forced to resign after an increase in labour strikes and after it was made clear that it had ordered for prisoners be tortured and abused. There are no indications that new policies will soon be underway and this is evidenced by the fact that the minister of interior has maintained his post and more importantly none of his men were replaced despite the amount of violations and blood that was spilt during his time in office.
  • What has occurred is a re-declaration of journalism's death in Egypt after the news became limited to leaked information from the security sector. The Egyptian media in its entirety was surprised to learn of the resignation, despite its prideful boasts that it is supposedly able to penetrate the most confidential circles to acquire news.

Egyptian society has returned to post-revolutionary politics (politics after January 25); however, it is the return of one party only, because we have learnt that politics no longer has anything to do with society.

This article is a translation of the Arabic text published by Shorouk newspaper on 26 February, 2014.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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