26/11/2011

The Egyptian revolution: from Mubarak to Tantawi.

Three days before the first post-Mubarak elections, Egyptians have not finished making their revolution. Their original goal, El-Karama -dignity – has still not been reached and now seems far away. While Tahrir Square is always packed for a week and that the clashes between protesters and security forces raged in Cairo, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has appointed a man of the old regime as Prime Minister, Kamal El-Ganzouri. A former Mubarak Prime Minister from 1996 to 1999, El-Ganzouri is a reassuring choice for Egyptian generals who cling to their privileges, with all their might.

The apparent concessions granted to the Egyptian people by Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the SCAF do not seem to have convinced the protesters. The renewed promise of a rapid transition to civilian rule has so far not been held by the army. Opponents of the Tahrir Square see in the proposal of Marshal Tantawi to hold a referendum on the withdrawal of military from politics as a trap to manipulate the Egyptians who fear a new phase of instability in the country. The SCAF also promised to hold presidential elections by the end of June 2012.
Since the resumption of the uprising, the violent repression by the security forces made thirty-eight dead and two thousand wounded. This recalls the crushing of the Coptic peaceful demonstration last month. This use of violence by the military is not an isolated case. Since the departure of Mubarak in February, the SCAF continues to commit violations of human rights. At least 1200 civilians were judged by military courts, the scope of the law on the state of emergency was extended. It is in place since 1981, it shall suspend the Egyptian constitution and allows the arbitrary detention of political opponents to an indefinite period. Blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah is unfortunately not the only one in this case. Not to mention the torture and forced virginity tests on women who demonstrated for freedom.
Why the army clings to power? It should be noticed that the military has always had a dominant political power in Egypt, the various Egyptian presidents since 1952: Nasser, Sadat or Mubarak were former army officers. To ensure the loyalty of the army, Mubarak had given them control of the country’s internal security, which allowed them to develop a powerful military-industrial complex. The Egyptian army also controls large parts of the economy including industries from computer science to agriculture and tourism, it is also the leading manufacturer of roads and housing in the country and the first landowner of the capital.
The arguments advanced by the Egyptian military to remain in power are rather conventional, similar to those of Arab dictators for decades. They see themselves as guarantors of stability in the country and wave the Islamist threat to reduce freedoms and save their interests. Yet the peoples of the Arab countries know that their fate is not just a simple choice between dictatorship and Islamic extremism. Knowing that dictatorships never protect their populations against extremism but have instead fed extremism. Bashar Al-Assad used the same argument to justify the maintenance of his regime. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, stand away from this new wave of protests and call for calm. They refused to consider a postponement of the elections they plan to win.
The Egyptian army has always been a popular institution in the country and who supported the uprising against Mubarak did nothing before she claims the Egyptian people?

The Egyptian generals believe they have helped to dislodge Mubarak and therefore they have every right to stay in power. They would, they say, protected the demonstrators and allowed a stable and peaceful transition (unlike Libya). The fact is that the transition never took place as the military and security forces are the same as under Mubarak. The generals will be willing to cede power to civilians until their economic and commercial interests are preserved. They want to ensure they will not pay the price of change and they will continue to hold the reins of power as show the supra-constitutional principles they adopted that will allow them to have the last word on the legislative ground. Put the army in its place and set up a civilian democratic rule will not be easy.
Mubarak’s fall was only a first step in a long road to freedom. Dislodge Mubarak was one thing, all those responsible for ousting the former regime who are fighting tooth and nail to maintain their privileges is another.

Dalila Bernard