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Egypt Poised For Another Revolution? – OpEd

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By Mohieddin Sajedi

While we are only a week away from parliamentarian elections in Egypt after the fall of its former dictator Hosni Mubarak, the recent bloody developments in Cairo have changed many equations. Perhaps, a response to this public demand would be another revolution to free Egypt from the grasp of its military rule.

The demonstrations held since Friday are in protest to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) measures to pass laws which are beyond the Egyptian constitution. After it assumed power, the junta dissolved the parliament and discarded the constitution as requested by the people. Some laws were subsequently put to the vote for the management of the country until a new constitution was drawn up and approved.

Now, the Egyptian army is seeking to include some rights in the constitution, which confer the Egyptian armed forces an equal standing with the upcoming governments. For example, it wants to determine the military budget itself, without the government or the parliament playing any role in this.

The new Egyptian parliament (Shura Council and People’s Assembly) should, in its first session, appoint a committee for the compilation of a new constitution and ratify all of the demands of the army and include them in the constitution. The insistence of the military council to surrender power and its submission to the demands of the people has drawn various internal political powers, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, together and brought about some kind of harmony between them. There had initially been some understanding between the army and various parties during the compilation of the new laws, but this agreement paved the way to discord. Though, initially it was assumed that only the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis were against the laws demanded by the army, further developments demonstrated that liberal and leftist tendencies also have a similar stance.

From the outset, and especially in the recent months, the conduct of the military council has provoked a lot of doubt over its intentions to abandon power. Some point to a repeat of the examples of Turkey and Pakistan in Egypt, wherein the army runs the political power.

The Egyptian army adopted an ambiguous stance since the beginning of the country’s revolution and through the 18-day demonstrations of the Egyptians against Hosni Mubarak, and only entered the fray on January 28 after the fall of the police organization and its inability to suppress the people. At that very beginning it flew some F-16 fighter planes over Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square and adopted an indifferent stance in response to attack of the pro-Mubarak thugs, specifically the camel riders, on people. But, suddenly it switched sides to support the people and the slogan of “the army and people are one” prevailed.

After the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the military council acted as if the revolution had ended on February 11, and that the people should return to their houses and the army run the transitional phase. From the very beginning, some expressed concern about the army’s mentality that it does not favor fundamental reforms and wishes to establish peace with a limited political outlook.

About 10 months after the Egyptian revolution, the military council has not lifted the state of emergency which is legacy of the country’s former ruler, Hosni Mubarak. Many analysts have already doubted that a healthy election can be held under a state of emergency. Military courts are also still in place. Some legal experts have noted that while only 2,000 cases were referred to such courts through 30 years of Mubarak’s rule, the number of cases heard in military courts following the revolution has hit 15,000.

Under mounting pressure from people, General Hussein Tantawi, the chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of Egypt, had to concede to trial of Mubarak. During the hearing, however, he testified in Mubarak’s favor. This issue was a new shock to the Egyptian society and convinced many people that the military council is not in line with the Egyptian revolution and has even confiscated the revolution.

The military council still insists on maintaining relations with Israel even after people stormed the building of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, making the ambassador flee to Israel. Under the influence of the military council, the government of Essam Sharaf does not cooperate with people. A few days ago, the Egyptian foreign minister had a farewell meeting with the Israeli ambassador (who had secretly arrived in Cairo from Turkey)! The meeting was by no means compatible with the reality that nobody in Egypt has been willing to rent their house to Israel as the new embassy premises.

There is a growing general sense in Egypt that despite the revolution, no practical change has taken effect in the country. Some newspapers have even claimed that Hosni Mubarak is still running the country through his network. The US is also doing its best to prevent any change to political and military structure in Egypt. After suffering the original shock of unexpected revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, major Western capitals have spared no effort to restrain those revolutions and to manage other developments, as they have been doing in Libya, Syria and Bahrain.

At first, the military council accompanied people in asking for amendments in the country’s constitution and calling for parliamentary and presidential elections. As a result, revolutionary forces like the Muslim Brotherhood sided with the council because they believed that they would win majority seats in the country’s parliament. Subsequent insistence of the council on including unchangeable laws in the constitution which only benefitted the military caused the Muslim Brotherhood and other political forces to conclude that even in case of winning a parliamentary majority they would not be in charge of the country’s civil government as the army would have full control over practically everything.

The outburst of people’s wrath in the Liberation Square is further evidence to the fact that the “interim government” which has taken charge after the fall of Mubarak, is unable to understand revolutionary people’s demands or intends to ignore them by manipulating the existing differences among various political forces.

Summing up the current situation in Egypt, Ms. Rabab al-Mahdi, a professor of political science at the American University of Cairo, said the recent developments were the second wave of the revolution. She noted that the fall of Mubarak was not the end of the revolution as people’s demand for purging interior ministry from affiliates of the past regime has not been met yet. She added that the Egyptians only see security vacuum and the military council has done nothing to fill it. The result, al-Mahdi noted, is widespread violence, armed robbery and a general sense of insecurity. She said the state media are still reflecting government’s views and move in a direction opposite to the revolution. These are the main issues, she concluded, which have led to eruption of people’s accumulated wrath.

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