Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Egypt: The Cake Of The Revolution… And The Loaf Of Bread

By Mohammad Salah 

“All of the debates taking place on television shows and in the media between the representatives of political movements will be forgotten and will not be recorded in history… History will answer the question of whether the Revolution will have been the first step on the path of reform in Egypt…

History will not mention those who wasted the nation’s time in debate… It will mention only the real steps taken by the children of Egypt, so that there does not remain in Egypt a single person who cannot read and write… and so as not for 40 percent of the Egyptian people to remain under the poverty line… Get to work, and God will have mercy upon you.” The above is a quote from the Khaled Saeed page on Facebook, and it reflects the distance that separates the hopes and dreams of the Egyptian people who made the Revolution from the struggles of interests among the elites. The most prominent of what one may note on the Egyptian scene today is that vast distance separating the political elites, busy struggling over the future of rule, collecting the spoils of the Revolution or theorizing about establishing new bases for the state, from the masses of the people, where ordinary citizens hope that the benefits of the Revolution will reflect on their lives and on the future of their children, and that they will obtain their rights to live a decent life, rights which they had been denied for many long years. As for the army – and with it the police – confronting the activity of the baltagiya (paid thugs) and the plague of interest-group protests, they seems to be in an extremely difficult situation, not because they do not have the ability to confront the baltagiya or to prevent protesters from camping on sidewalks and blocking streets, but because any behavior is now held to account and will find those who lie in wait for mistakes. Thus, if matters are dealt with firmly, human rights organizations would be in an uproar, and so would satellite television shows and bloggers; and campaigns would be organized attacking the army or the police for making use of violence (or military tribunals) in confronting baltagiya or protesters! And if matters are dealt with calmly, the army would be accused of laxity and the police of weakness, amid talk of elements of the former regime still seeking to smear the Revolution. This is with the knowledge that the masses of the people endured a security breakdown for a period of time that was not short, on the basis that the police was unable to impose security in the country after it had collapsed. Yet the recent situation is embodied in scenes of sometimes dense security presence in squares and streets, with the law nonetheless being broken in broad daylight, due to the weakness or the negativity of the police. Thus the army and the police have become united in their stance of always reacting to defend this measure or that behavior, which has paved the way for blackmail at times, and for additional unrest, baltagiya activity and confusion at others, in addition to granting satellite television shows vast expanses for “political debates”, as expressed by the Khaled Saeed page.
Amid such a scene, no Egyptian knows what the form and the nature of the government will be in the future, or when the parliamentary or presidential elections will be held and what the nature of the country’s new constitution is, as the political elites struggle over these matters and have not reached a minimum of consensus over them, with each political faction seeking to impose their position on the others, claiming that theirs is the position that is in line with the principles of the Revolution and that befits the sacrifices that were made to overthrow Mubarak’s regime, and that their program would make Egypt undergo a civilized shift that would turn it into an advanced nation within a few years. Noteworthy is the fact that every side holds legal arguments, constitutional justifications and practical evidence that adopting their position would bring only good things, while adopting the program of the opposing side or walking its path would drag the country into the abyss.

Even more noteworthy is the fact that each party has found in the different parties a replacement for the formerly ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), accusing them of authoritarianism or of standing against patriotic forces. And the questions remain: will the Military Council insist on holding the parliamentary elections before setting down the new constitution amid such fierce opposition from the majority of political forces, with the exception of Islamists in general and of the Muslim Brotherhood in particular? Can it back down and meet the demands of Liberals, Leftists and “coalitions”, moving to prolong the transitional period in order to complete the constitution and entering into a confrontation with Islamists over the elections? Will some police officials maintain the behavior they had engaged in during the past era, creating problems every day that hinder security in the country from returning to normal? Will there be an end to settling scores with the police and lying in wait for the mistakes committed by some of its members, exaggerating and sometimes fabricating them? The situation seems confusing on the background of the absence of views being put forward about the future in terms of growth and education, and of agreement over a political roadmap for the future of the state. And while the struggle intensifies over the “cake” of the Revolution, ordinary citizens still struggle to find their loaf of bread!
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 13/06/2011

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