An Egyptian official told me in person that the army rigged the presidential elections in June 2012, fearing widespread riots should the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsi, lose the race.
According to my source, who asked to remain anonymous, Ahmed Shafik, the former air force commander and former president Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, actually won the race by a narrow margin. But the army generals – wanting to ensure that law and order would be upheld following the elections – feared that if Morsi was defeated, the Muslim Brotherhood would refuse to recognize the results and would end up conducting themselves just as they are now.
The official results, 51.73 percent for Morsi and 48.27% for Shafik, were almost the exact reversal of what actually happened at the polls. After the results were published, we barely heard any calls for protest or opposition among the secular-liberals, while on the religious side – loyal either to the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafi parties – voters were happy with their achievement.
Officials thought that the inexperienced Morsi would accept help from the army and would avoid crossing any red lines – regarding Israel, for example. In reality, what happened was a combination of a pathetic lack of management skills and a string of efforts to rule by the same ideological orientation espoused by a quarter of Egypt’s population. Morsi tried running the operation with the help of several associates who were completely incapable of managing anything.
Many of Col. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s fellow generals tried to convince him to spring to action several months ago already, but Sissi wanted to give Morsi, who favored Sissi over other generals as defense minister and commander in chief of the armed forces, the opportunity to prove that what had happened stemmed from the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood president was an amateur.
On the Muslim Brotherhood’s first anniversary in power, Sissi thought that public demonstrations would be a fitting background to oust the man who led the group, if Morsi refused to meet the army’s unequivocal demands. Morsi indeed rejected the demands, included calling for early presidential elections. He acted in a manner that would have far-reaching consequences, the most significant of which was a military coup before the judicial system was adjusted, making it harder to reinstate the deposed president.
This same official told me that Sissi did not foresee so many casualties in clashes with Morsi supporters, adding that the general was unwavering in his conviction that demonstrators must be cleared from the squares where they were squatting. And he does not intend to let them come back.