The news today is of more demonstrations against Egypts military regime in Tahir Square, with the death toll and the numbers of casualties mounting by the hour.
The fairy-tale of the ‘Arab Spring’ has run up against reality sooner than expected. What happened in Egypt was in fact an illusion. Smoke and mirrors. There was certainly a genuine groundswell of protest against the authoritarian rule of Mubarak, as much on practical economic grounds as on more abstract issues like ‘freedom’, but it was only able to succeed because the Army stood back and allowed it. They were hailed as champions of the people at the time.
In fact the army cynically used the popular protests to stage a coup d’etat and seize power from Mubarak. It was all about looking after themselves. The Egyptian army is a bastion of privilege, funded and supported by America, and has about as much inclination to embrace genuinely democratic change as turkeys voting for Xmas. In the euphoric aftermath of Mubaraks departure it took a while for this truth to sink in but thats why the people are out on the streets again.
Egyptians are scheduled to elect a new parliament in a vote that starts on November 28. Yet, even when the assembly is picked, executive powers would remain with the army until a presidential election, which may not happen until late 2012 or early 2013. Protesters want a much swifter transition. Under a proposed new constitution the military would be exempted from civilian oversight, as would its budget, which shows pretty clearly which way the winds blowing.
Its hard to predict how this will play out but I think the odds against a swift transition to a genuinely democratic society, free from foreign (i.e. American) influence are not great. At least not without further significant conflict and continuing pressure. I really hope I’m wrong.
Egypt’s secular youth show signs of losing traction
Hundreds of thousands of ultra-religious Islamists packed this capital’s central Tahrir Square in an unprecedented show of support for the creation of an Islamic republic, rather than the planned unity demonstration in collaboration with secularists…
Bulos Oweideh, a Coptic priest who sits on a joint revolutionary council that included both Islamists and secularists, shared the outrage. The Islamist hijacking of the demonstration, he said, was “contrary to what we had agreed.”…
Many fear that the schism in Egypt’s revolutionary leadership is irreparable, and that the Islamists have emerged on top. “This is my worst nightmare,” said a young businessman, a mosque-going Muslim who still wants a secular government. “I hoped we could avoid this.” >continue<
…in fact, the Salafis put a scare into women, middle class people, Coptic Christians, and youth on Friday that almost certainly hurt the chances of the Muslim Brotherhood in the upcoming elections, at least in urban areas. That is, the true significance of Friday’s events >Informed Comment<
Buried in this Robert Fisk report for The Independent is a startling account of the Egyptian army refusing to move with tanks against the Tahrir Square protesters on January 30. If this is true, it must be the defining moment in the history of the movement that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign. My emphasis below:Last night [Feb 10], a military officer guarding the tens of thousands celebrating in Cairo threw down his rifle and joined the demonstrators, yet another sign of the ordinary Egyptian soldier’s growing sympathy for the democracy demonstrators. We had witnessed many similar sentiments from the army over the past two weeks. But the critical moment came on the evening of 30 January when, it is now clear, Mubarak ordered the Egyptian Third Army to crush the demonstrators in Tahrir Square with their tanks after flying F-16 fighter bombers at low level over the protesters.Many of the senior tank commanders could be seen tearing off their headsets – over which they had received the fatal orders – to use their mobile phones. They were, it now transpires, calling their own military families for advice. Fathers who had spent their lives serving the Egyptian army told their sons to disobey, that they must never kill their own people.
The End is near
The End is near. I have no illusions about this regime or its leader, and how he will pluck us and hunt us down one by one till we are over and done with and 8 months from now will pay people to stage fake protests urging him not to leave power, and he will stay “because he has to acquiesce to the voice of the people”. This is a losing battle and they have all the weapons, but we will continue fighting until we can’t.