Despite protestations of its purported political neutrality Egypt's besieged military leadership has been secretly funneling financial, food, and security support to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and its allied Salafist parties in the run up to next week's parliamentary elections.
The assistance takes the form of "walk around" money, clothing and food giveaways secretly funneled to the coffers of the Brotherhood's front party -- the Freedom and Justice Party, the Construction and Development Party, as well as to allied Salafist Parties, including Al Nour, Al-Asalah, Al-Fadilah, Al Islah and others -- in a bid to buy votes and provide Islamist parties a military supported upper hand in the upcoming parliamentary elections..
The military leadership has not only channeled financial support to the Islamists, it has also secretly collaborated with Salafists who have attacked Copts throughout Egypt in a show of support for more punitive discriminatory acts against Egypt's Coptic minority to curry further favor with Salafists.
Hundreds of Copts were attacked by unknown assailants en route to Cairo's Tahrir Square on November 18th the second night of demonstrations this month while security forces stood by. This latest attack comes in the wake of October's attack by the army which used live fire and drove military vehicles into a crowd of Copts protesting a rash of attacks on Copts and Coptic churches, killing 25 innocent protestors.
According to information obtained from a reliable European military intelligence source with whom I met in Turkey a few days ago, an emissary of The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) met secretly with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist oriented political movements last April to establish local political "action committee" bank accounts to funnel an underground supply chain of financial and commodity support to local Islamist political organizations throughout Egypt outside the prying eyes of Cairo-based media. Hundreds of local Islamist political organization chapters throughout Egypt have been buying votes courtesy of military provided financial and food handouts.
While it is impossible to determine the exact extent of the financial, clothing and food transfers, I was told by a prominent Egyptian journalist who is trying to uncover the magnitude of the payouts that it amounts to "millions of dollars." The military is not the sole source of funds to Islamists parties, which are also receiving funds from Egyptian businessmen trying to buy favor with the likely winners of Egypt's parliamentary elections, and charitable donations from wealthy Saudis.
The SCAF's surreptitious political maneuvering favoring Islamists over more secular political movements is based on one simple equation -- the military is determined to prevent secularists from gaining a parliamentary majority which would likely impair its insatiable appetite for controlling Egypt's national budget and its own extensive business operations. It is determined to prevent a civilian government from interfering with its cherished prerogatives.
Moreover, the vast majority of Egypt's rank and file soldiers come from more rural, conservative parts of Egypt, where support for Islamic parties is most pronounced. The SCAF is betting that its considerable support for Islamists will translate into long term loyalty among Egypt's post revolutionary conscripts as an insurance policy against potential efforts to interfere with the military's jealously guarded prerogatives.
The outbreak of unrest throughout Cairo in recent days orchestrated largely by Egypt's more secular, liberal-oriented political supporters has clearly shocked the SCAF. Anger at Egypt's military rulers reached a boiling point when, in addition to delaying reforms and presidential elections, the SCAF-controlled constitution drafting committee (with a wink and nod from Islamist members of the drafting committee) unveiled a draft two weeks ago exempting the military and its budget from civilian oversight over the strenuous objections of secular political parties.
In fact, Field Marshal Tantawi's determination to press ahead with parliamentary elections next week as originally planned despite the violence and unrest throughout the country reflects, in part, the military leadership's fear that prolonging the parliamentary campaigning will reveal the extent of the SCAF's slush fund operations and its interference on behalf of Islamist parties.
Follow Amb. Marc Ginsberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@ambmcg