Friday, March 9, 2012

The Long and Winding Road for Democracy in Egypt Part 4


Part 4 : January 25 (2011-12): Year in life of Egyptian Revolution

Today the 25th of January 2012 marks the first anniversary of glorious revolution.  The revolution which took the world by storm and achieving an unprecedented global enthusiasm and attention due to its peaceful nature.  Yet after a year from that revolution things are not what every freedom fighter in Egypt and around the world hoped for.  The number of problems of the post revolution period is increasing rapidly without viable solutions either from government of the Military Junta in charge (SCAF)

Two achievements were reached so far by Egyptians after a year of struggles post their glorious Jan 25th revolution. They can be summarized in the Public trials of ousted president Hosni Mubarak and his regime. Secondly, the election of relatively free parliament despite the way the Islamists managed to acquire the majority of the seats in the parliament.  While both achievements seemingly great and could have been quite farfetched under the previous regime, they fall very short in regard of the great aspirations of the Egyptian people in the aftermath of one of the greatest peaceful revolutions of modern history.
The Egyptian revolution triggered a massive wave of protests in the middle east and worldwide. Never since the fall of the Berlin’s wall in 1989 had a political movement this impact on a global scale. Its impact can be felt as far from Cold squares of Moscow, Russia all the way to the Occupy Wall Street movement in USA and from streets of London to the small towns of Nigeria. Yes, the Egyptian revolution had that impact. It’s the most televised revolution and political event in history. The entire world held its breath for those 18 glorious days that proceeded the fall of one of the oldest dictators in the Middle East on Feb 11th 2011

The ever changing Egyptian Cabinet

This far reached success and worldwide impact didn’t reflect on the daily lives on the very Egyptians who created that great revolution. A year passed and only the head of the state changed with some of his sidekicks. Now Egypt prime minister is a former prime minister during the regime of Mubarak Dr. Kamal El Ganzoury . The former regime prime minister of the late 1990s and is the man who was accused of being responsible for the beginning of the most vicious corruption wave and whose succeeded by Dr. Atef Ebeid who is behind some of the worst corruption cases in modern Egyptian history.
The appointment of Ganzoury is the third change of cabinet in one year as the first change occurred during the first 18 days of revolution from Dr. Ahmed Nazief (Currently in Jail) to Dr. Ahmed Shafiq. Then a second change from Dr. Ahmed Shafiq to Dr. Essam Sharaf . The former was shunned by the rebels in Tahrir being one of the closest figures of former president Mubarak despite Shafiq’s good administrational capabilities. He was replaced by one of the pro-revolution figures Dr. Essam Sharraf and despite that Sharraf was also a minister during Mubarak era for a few months but his stance of being a pro-revolution led to him being picked by the Tahrir revolutionaries as a new prime minister. He was even sworn in Tahrir in an unprecedented event that was unmatched in any country.
However, the love was soon lost between the rebels and Sharraf and soon the same people who carried him literally on their shoulders in Tahrir celebrating his appointment as prime minister are the ones who were out for his blood for what they believed to be his role in curbing the efforts of change in the country and derailing from the path of the revolution. The third change occurred based on popular demanded when it seemed impossible to have Dr. Sharraf anymore as a prime minister and he was replaced by the 78 year old Dr. El Ganzoury who managed to take matters with a firmer hand in the few first days than his predecessor. Dr  Sharraf. Dr. El Ganzoury managed to try to appease the rebels by some economical measures including increasing the minimum wage up to 700 Egyptian pounds equivalent (115 dollars/Month) which is still below the minimum necessity for any working Egyptian to acquire a decent standard of living.
The effect of his economical decisions are yet to be seen since the turbulent political situation is still overshadowing any progress made in trying to contain the economical damage that hit the Egyptian society and economy. The progress is hindered by both Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) controversial decisions and the incidents on the ground with the endless protests, strikes and sit-ins that has paralyzed a large chunk of the Egyptian economy.

Egyptian daily life post Revolution

SCAF being in charge for over a year have failed in tackling most if not all the problems facing the aftermath of the revolution. Starting from the security issues in the Egyptian street, which are still witnessing some improvements lately though not enough for Egyptians to feel the difference and ending with economical and political issues.   Most of these problems have reflected the inapt leadership of SCAF in handling even the most basic problems like providing gas cylinders to the common Egyptians who rely on it for heating and cooking especially in the cold winter times.
The issues of Security have in turn affected the tourism revenues which constitute about 20% – 25% of the Egyptian annual GDP and also contribute a large sum of Egypt’s hard currency. The unemployment rates resulting from the decrease of tourism revenue have led that Egypt is seeking to borrow again from the IMF. An Idea that SCAF and Egyptian government rejected in the early days following the revolution but now seeking that loan with much harsher conditions from the IMF.
The human rights haven’t improved either especially for a revolution that was ignited by the lack of these rights. Actually, the number of military tribunals, torture incidents, curbing of freedom of speech have increased more than they did during the days of Mubarak.
 12,000 Egyptians have face military tribunals despite their status as civilians and while just one day before the celebrations 1956 were released from imprisonment including prominent blogger Maikel Nabil. It was really hard, for those who fought for their freedom and ousting a dictator to be put on military tribunals and being brought to military justice while the dictator is given the courtesy of a civilian public trial . The lack of communication and freedom of information between SCAF and regular Egyptians have led to further complications in the society.

Security, Human Rights and Economic Issues

A society that used to be much more cohesive is now torn between usually limited amount of sectarian violence between extremist Islamic groups and Christians. Also on political levels the Islamists who gained a majority in rather controversial  parliamentary election are fighting a vicious war against liberals who lost a lot of ground in the former elections but still steadfast on fighting for human rights against the tyranny of the military and the Islamist forces like Salafis.
The society seems to be deeply wounded in terms of its cohesiveness after the revolution. The revolution path is still bumpy and hard and while the hard-core rebels are still determined to fight the good fight for real freedom, it will not be an easy battle for them and they can either lose it or win it but they don’t seem to back down and vowed to liberate Egypt from all the traces of tyranny that started by the 1952 coup d’état and still going on till this day.
The military despite all its faults have the hard task of keeping this society functional and stable before handing in the power to a civilian authority by June 30th 2012 but that is easier said than done. They showed some good gestures by partly annulling the Emergency law that governed the Egyptian state for the past 30 years in the aftermath of late President Sadat’s assassination and till now.  In a speech by Field Marshall Tantawi Defense minister and head of SCAF, he declared the cancellation of the law and restricting its usage in cases of thuggery and vandalism which still opens the door for further abuses by the police and the Military police against civilians.
At the same time, one can’t blame them entirely for trying to curb the thuggery incidents taking place randomly in many areas around the country. Yet this law has been around for decades and never really helped to curb on thugs the way people hoped for. So other tactics should be in order now to restore the serenity and sense of security Egyptians need to feel.
The Economic downturn must be battled as Egypt is losing huge revenues from the new foreign investments as well as tourism revenue throughout the past year. New laws giving incentives for foreign and local investors should be implemented to help the country that lost over 40% of its Central Bank national reserves to recuperate.

Political clashes and Constitutional Dilemma

The issue of writing the constitution is still the elephant in the room for all political debates in the country and represents a real headache for SCAF and liberals who don’t want the Islamist majority parliament to control the committee writing this constitution. This is a direct manifestation of the horrendous mistake committed by SCAF political consultants that resulted in a constitutional declaration stating that the new parliament will elect 100 committee members to write the constitution. Thus rendering the new Egyptian constitution to be a trophy for the parliament majority winner and of course it was the Islamists who won the majority in the parliament. They used the most divisive and sectarian political propaganda in Egyptian political history which contradicts with the Egyptian constitution and law.
Yet it was strangely overlooked by SCAF and all the country authorities during these controversial elections. It’s expected that they will also win the upper house elections “Shurra” Council starting Jan 29th since the major Liberal coalition The Egyptian Bloc have withdrawn from participating in protest against the elections violations from Islamists and the lack of law application on them according to Egyptian bloc press statement .

The accusations to SCAF deal with the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis to hand those the Parliament in exchange for the Presidency position to be for a SCAF allied candidate are very common now in all political circles. This allegation certainly seems to have a good degree of truth in it which has been proven by the friendly behavior of SCAF towards Islamists contrary to their Liberal counterparts.
One year after the revolution, the Egyptians are still in a transitional point and while they achieved some marginal victories throughout the past year, the battle for freedom is far from over in what seems to be now quite an exhausted and ideologically divided society. The need for a certain degree of unity couldn’t be more important at anytime than now if Egyptians are willing to pass this delicate stage to safety.

The tensions among all the factions must cease to exist for a while and the constitution writing must be done with all the Egyptian society representatives being part of it and not just the majority winners. Otherwise, the consequences will be catastrophic for the country and the region. The country needs a period of healing and coordination of all efforts to achieve the noble revolution goals and that can’t be achieved overnight for certain. That requires an immediate action and coordination of all powers to reach an agreement on the next phase of Egypt’s short and long term future plans while maintaining the human rights and personal freedoms of every Egyptian.
 Any other solution will have catastrophic repercussions on the country’s future.  Egyptians need to make peace with their past, present and future in order to step forward for a much needed progress.


Ending this article, one would usually use a great quote from a great philosopher or leader but it seems more appropriate to use a part of an inspirational speech used by the legendary actor Al Pacino in his great sports movie Any Given Sunday. “All comes down to today, and either, we heal as a team, or we’re gonna crumble. Inch by inch, play by play. Until we’re finished. … We’re in hell right now and either, we heal, now, as a team, or we will die as individuals”

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