Behind the scenes

As soon as he said he was considering to run for president, he was deported by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he was held as a “guest.” However, this looked more like “cargo delivery to an address” than an ordinary deportation process: When the private plane transporting him landed in a far corner of Cairo Airport, out of sight, Egyptian security and intelligence officers appeared at the door. After a few secret days, during which even his family did not know where he was, he appeared at the lobby of a luxury hotel a little outside Cairo – during a conversation over tea, like nothing happened. And last Sunday, in the statement he made on Twitter, he said, “I couldn’t follow what happened in the country while I was away. I see that I am not the ideal person to run the state in the upcoming term. Therefore, I have decided not to run as candidate in the 2018 presidential election.”

I am talking about Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister of the Hosni Mobarak administration. The course of his short political experience is almost like a clear summary of the state system and political conditions in Egypt. Starting from his biography, let’s take a look at the stages of Shafik’s march:

Born in Cairo in 1941, Ahmed Shafik joined the military after graduating from the Air Forces Academy at the age of 20. He did his post-graduate studies and master’s on military strategy and planning. He joined the 1973 Yom Kippur War in the command of then Air Forces Commander Hosni Mobarak – who would become the future president of Egypt. Based on his own statement, he downed two Israeli planes during the war. Shafik, who assumed the duty of air forces commander between 1996 and 2002, was the civic aviation minister in the 2002-2011 term. During Shafik’s term as minister, Egyptian Airlines turned from being a sluggish military institute into a profitable business competing against its international rivals. Shafik, who revamped the entire airport during the same period, also helped the tourism industry make a leap.

When the hundreds and thousands filled Tahrir Square in Egypt in the Egypt leg of the Arab Spring, Mobarak made Shafik, whose achievements were appreciated by the people as well, prime minister. However, this step would not be enough to eliminate the rage in the streets. Shafik who was labeled “Mobarak’s man” with the impact of the media campaigns back then, had to leave his post shortly after Mobarak was ousted. Shafik, who was even said to become “vice president” toward the end of Mobarak’s rule, could not overcome the Gamal Mobarak factor, and eventually, like Mobarak and his sons, he too was distanced from the administration.

In 2012, when Egypt went to the ballot box for the first real democratic election in its history, there were two names that stood out on the ballots: Ahmad Shafik and Mohammed Morsi. It wasn’t easy for Shafik to reach that stage. His candidacy was first rejected by the election committee, then the following day, he was allowed to run as candidate. Considering his profile, his impact within the military and his successful career and profile, it was clear that he was brought up against Morsi by the “state,” but when doing this, quite serious deals and plans were made behind closed doors.

Shafik’s statements during the election campaign were interesting. He said, “I am the only person who knows both politics and the military closely,” and added: “Egypt needs a gradual transition. In a country like this, you cannot make a civilian who has no military experience president and a military commander just like that.” His promises regarding the military were too good to be true under Egypt’s conditions. He was promising to tax the gigantic economic empire controlled by the military and saying that the military would completely withdraw from politics in time.

When the ballot boxes were opened, it was seen that against Ahmed Shafik’s 48.17 percent support, Morsi was elected president with 51.73 percent of the vote. Afterwards, Shafik’s UAE “exile” started and we are now here.

My opinion on the election which won Morsi the presidential seat never changed: The winner was actually Shafik, but the military manipulated the election results and ensured that Morsi won. There were three reasons why the military acted this way: 1) During those days when the “revolution” excitement was ongoing, they did not want to be the focus of anger again, 2) This way Egypt’s huge gangrenous problems were left on the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi, and they hence guaranteed the failure of the “Islamist” (and inexperienced) ruling government, 3) They prevented Shafik, who has quite a lot of support within the military and bureaucracy, who would probably remain in the presidential seat and receive support from the public, to take office.

I believe that one day that we are going to reach certain concrete documents, confessions and evidence on the behind the scene developments after 2011 and on the intense relations between the Muslim Brotherhood government and the military. The only thing we can do for now is to make some guesses based on the play being staged and dialogues. However, the curtain is so transparent and the playwrights are so incautious that, even from where we sit, we can clearly see through it.

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