El-Sisi’s blackshirts

(Le Monde diplomatique) --
By Jeremy Hodge and Nizar Manek, 17 June 2014
Egypt’s Quick Intervention Forces were first seen out on the streets during last month’s presidential elections. They were distinguished from the other army units by the black balaclavas they wore underneath their helmets. On March 25, out on a desert base speaking with soldiers from the new unit, the former Field Marshal and Minister of Defence and Military Production Abdel Fattah Kalil el-Sisi was sparse in his ten-minute inauguration of the unit: they would forestall domestic crises. The unit was drawn from a pool Egypt’s most highly trained military cadres, and, the now inaugurated President of the Republic, told them, possesses capabilities “available only to the most advanced armies."
If El-Sisi favoured a pragmatic lull, a popular talk show host with close ties to Egypt’s security apparatus would nonchalantly intervene to leave no shadow of doubt. The talk show host, Ahmed Moussa, described the Quick Intervention Forces’ purpose, to “combat terrorism and secure the country’s domestic front." The parallel security service controlled by the army is to be used for domestic repression, encroaching on territory traditionally controlled by the Ministry of Interior. The unit began with securing polling stations, where 47 percent of Egypt’s 54 million voters would usher the former army chief in with a 97 percent mandate. One of its next steps will be to oversee the parliamentary polls due in three or four months’ time, to elect no less than four hundred and fifty new members to the House of Representatives in Cairo, which is constitutionally bound to approve laws by an absolute majority. To seize the day, El-Sisi loyalists including Mourad Mowafi, a former head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate and a colleague of El-Sisi in Military Intelligence, have now founded their own political party, El Riyada.
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