The revolution in the title is placed in quotes on purpose. In a simplistic way, what happened in Egypt was accepted as a revolution without much questioning: Hosni Mubarak left, Al-Jazeera flashed “revolution” as a caption for hours. That Mubarak, who had ruled for thirty years, stepped down was without a doubt a dramatic occurrence. No one has the right to discount this, or undermine all the factors that also took their leave from the Egyptian establishment along with Mubarak. However, it is beneficial to remember some hard truths.
Mubarak, who managed to sustain the third longest rule in Egypt for the last 4,000 years, resembles a political microcosm harboring all the stories that could be told of the modern Middle East. The established order in Egypt did not perceive Mubarak’s stepping down as a revolution, or as the collapse of the establishment. The Egyptian regime conceived of this leave as simply the stepping down of an actor whose bio-political life had come to an end.
We can attempt to assess where exactly Egypt falls on the “revolution” and “change” spectrum by tracing the “times” of Egypt post-Mubarak through the lenses of the Turkish political “calendar.” Turkey experienced its first bloody coup d’état, whose tremors would be felt for half a century, after it transitioned to a multi-party regime in the 1950s. An even bloodier coup followed that experience in 1980.
None of these coups achieved what they set out to do. The elimination of “anti-revolution focal points” was what the May 27, 1960 intervention aimed at, but it led to the consolidation of politics by the right-wing incumbency that lasted for half a century. The 1980 intervention crudely aimed to eliminate the political arena itself. It resulted in the emergence of two of the strongest identity movements in the history of the republic. Feb. 28, 1997 was the attempt to annihilate Islamist politics once and for all. It was not able to preempt the rise of the AK Party. April 27, 2007 was Kemalism’s naïve impulse to declare “halt” in response to the 2002 elections; it was silenced with the flood of reactions from the people in the July 22, 2007 elections. The attempt to close the AK Party in 2008 was the last move of the tutelage regime. It was structurally disabled with the referendum of 2010. The democratic transition we lived through from May 27, 1960 until Sept. 12, 2010 lasted half a century.
The post-Mubarak Egypt first “went to a multi-party regime of the 1950s.” As soon as power struggles began in its aftermath, Egypt was swept into the presidential crisis of April 27, 2007. Just as it was trying to figure out how to manage this crisis, frightening steps resembling May 27, 1960 in Turkey were taken one after another. The deep silence of the U.S and the West on this take us back to the 1960s Turkey, while the blatantly blasé anti-democratic actions of the Egyptian establishment take us back to the Turkey of April 27, 2007. The only instance where these two dynamics merge is Turkey’s coup of Sept. 12, 1980. Those who know what this means, know it very well!
Turkey with its western bourgeois, a military alienated from its own people, and a judiciary that violates justice, has caused the people to lose fifty years. Egypt does not have to go through the same experience.