Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Egypt: Decisive Limits And Wasted Opportunities

By Mohammad Salah
 It came as no surprise for the speech given by Egyptian Prime Minister Doctor Essam Sharaf on Saturday evening to be met with fierce objections, reaching the extent of demanding his resignation, “as punishment” for what has been considered to be betraying or letting down the public of the Revolution who brought him to the seat of Prime Minister, not just because the contents of the speech did not live up to the ambitions of those who objected, but also because it has shown the size of the gap separating the crowds of Egyptians in Tahrir Square and other squares from what the man can offer the Revolution. The Military Council running matters in Egypt may for a short while be able to contain angry reactions to the slowness of reform measures and the delay in holding to account those accused of corruption and murder from among the former regime’s most prominent figures. Yet certainly “patience has its limits” and the people will not accept for the outcome to be at the end of the day the loss of the Revolution. In jeopardy now is the relationship between those in power and the people, who have put forward rational demands and found those demands being met with irrational responses. And no matter what happens in the next few days, those in power in Egypt will certainly not be able to withstand the reactions that will erupt if the 3rd of August were to pass without those angry people seeing former President Hosni Mubarak in the defendant’s cage with his sons Alaa and Gamal. This date has therefore become a decisive limit, despite the fact that the demands of protesters on the Friday of “Revolution First”, and of those gathered in Tahrir Square today, also included setting a minimum wage, resolving the breakdown of security, holding to account police officers accused of shooting protesters, prosecuting the remaining figures of corruption under Mubarak and putting an end to the control of the regime of the National Democratic Party (NDP). Yet any step taken that would be understood as meaning that the issue of Mubarak is being dealt with by relying on buying time until people calm down, or that he is obtaining privileges not afforded to other defendants, will make the relationship between the Military Council and the angry crowds head in two separate directions, even if some of the other demands are met, such as removing ministers in Sharaf’s government affiliated with the former regime, arresting the remaining NDP figures suspected of being involved in issues of corruption, providing financial compensation to the families of the martyrs of the Revolution, or restructuring the Interior Ministry.
Indeed, deception in implementing the decision to prosecute Mubarak would be sure to detonate the situation in a manner that far exceeds what is taking place today. If, on the other hand, the trial were to be held publicly on its scheduled date of August 3, it might quell the anger for a while. It would also make differences of opinion between the Council’s policy and the masses of the people acceptable, and convince some of those who are angry that the army is protecting the Revolution and fulfilling its goals, and that the complex considerations and tremendous responsibilities borne by the Military Council are the reason behind its slow rhythm – knowing that opportunities have been wasted that could have narrowed the gap instead of widening it. Indeed, the officers facing charges of killing protesters could have been suspended until sentences were issued in their cases, rather than after anger had become inflamed to such a degree – just as hiding Adly and making sure not to have him appear behind bars has given the impression that there are those who are more concerned about the “appearance” of the former Minister than about being faithful to the blood of martyrs.
The fundamental issue is that those in power in Egypt are dealing with the Revolution by using pre-Revolutionary methods. And even if their intentions are sincere, intentions alone are not sufficient to achieve the goals of the Revolution, just as fears of “moving backwards” require rushing to move forward. Indeed, the pressures to which Sharaf and his government have been subjected to do not justify the confusion that appeared plainly when Interior Minister Mansour El-Essawy was speaking on a live television show and was surprised like all other viewers by Sharaf’s speech, in which he announced that he had issued instructions to the Interior Minister to suspend the officers accused on charges of killing protesters. Everyone understood that Essawy had not yet received such instructions… The Revolution requires different methods from those in power in order to move forward on its path.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 11/07/2011

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