15/07/2011

Egyptians get impatient

Despite recent concessions and promises made recently by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (AFSC), which ruled the country since the departure of Mr. Mubarak, a new demonstration of the Egyptian population will take place today on Tahrir Square.

The pressure of the street has in fact led the Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, to give a speech where he tried to calm the protesters by announcing a number of promises. But far from convincing, the Prime Minister’s speech was greeted with indifference or even disappointment in Tahrir Square, and with skepticism by citizens who followed it on television.

First, the Prime Minister announced a postponement of parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in September, to November or December. This request was made by many political groups created since January to help them to prepare better the elections, and compete on equal terms with the Muslim brotherhood, already well prepared. The Prime Minister also announced that a new electoral code will be promulgated soon.

The announcement of the postponement of the elections was welcomed by political parties, except the Muslim Brotherhood that are the favorites of the elections, but does not seem to have completely calmed down protesters. While the CFSA wants the elections before writing a new constitution, many protesters want this writing  prior to elections, to ensure democratic consolidation of the post-Mubarak Egypt, regardless the vote.

Then, the interior minister announced a purge of the police in the country. This includes the purging more than 600 officers, including 505 generals and officers of lower rank, and the transfer of 4,000 members of the department. Generals and colonels who have been implicated in the deaths of protesters during the revolution of January 25 are concerned.

In the eyes of protesters, the purge is still insufficient. Protesters demand in particular the reform of the Ministry of Interior where practices of arbitrary detention and torture remain widespread and therefore ask for stopping systematic violation of human rights. Moreover, protesters demand that more civilians will appear before military courts.

Regarding the claims of social justice that include access to health services and education, wage increases or pensions, the head of the interim government has asked in his speech, the Minister of Social Solidarity to chair a committee composed of all ministers to study the demands of protesters. Finally, the government also announced a cabinet reshuffle.

But this is still insufficient to the demonstrators because the pillars of the old regime still hold the reins of power at the head of the judiciary, of the police, local government and the media. Protesters demand so the fall of these symbols.

Despite these promises, protesters continue to demand that the government accepts all their demands. Some protesters even threatening to resort to other means of action and already wield « weapons » of the hunger strike and civil disobedience.

The situation remains thus very tense. Indeed, the promises of the interim government is a step in the right direction but are still inadequate. Beyond the symbols and people of the old regime, it is best suited to change practices and attitudes. Unfortunetaly, this can not be made in  few months or by simple decree.

The protesters are right to continue to pressure the interim government. However, they should be patient so that the situation does not degenerate and allow a peaceful election campagn and a smooth election.

Geoffroy d’Aspremont