Commentary

Egypt's Revolution Turns One Year Old

Middle East In Focus

Middle East In Focus

Next week, the Egyptian revolution turns one year old. Much has transpired in one year, but unrest continues to plague the country, as protestors lament the lack of progress toward democratic reform, as well as the slow pace with which the Mubarak trial has advanced. The parliamentary elections that were supposed to ease some of the tensions on the street have only polarized the electorate and increased the divide between the military regime and the youth protesting on Tahrir square.

Symptomatic of this general sense that the regime is only muddling through these important matters is the ongoing trial of the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. According to an AFP report posted on Asharq Alawsat, “Civilian courts have no authority to hear corruption charges against ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak because he reverted to his former military rank when he quit, his defence lawyer Farid al-Deeb said on Thursday. Deeb cited a law adopted in 1979, during the presidency of Mubarak's predecessor Anwar Sadat, which exempts senior military officers from going into retirement and stipulates that if they take up civilian posts, they regain their military rank afterwards. "Under this law, Hosni Mubarak rejoined the armed forces (when he resigned in February 2011), keeping the rank he formerly had, which is to say that he became General Hosni Mubarak once again," the lawyer told the court.”

The situation is such that even questions about how to mark the anniversary of the January 25 Revolution have become contentious. As Khaled Dawoud notes on the Egyptian daily Al Ahram, “The youth movements that started the revolt against Mubarak a year ago are facing hostility not only from Egypt's current military rulers but from the Islamist parties -- the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the Salafist Nour Party -- whose landslide victory in the parliamentary elections makes them the military's successor....The threat of violence on 25 January is being taken seriously by many parties, including the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb....Meanwhile, SCAF has announced that it will be holding its own celebrations to mark the day at Cairo Stadium and in several other cities.”

The Muslim Brotherhood’s precarious position in the post-revolutionary Egypt is also reflected in a column by Amira Howeidy: “But the Brotherhood's vindication through the ballot box brings with it a host of potentially explosive challenges....Post-revolution Egypt has already seen three ministers of finance come and go. Any future government, says Samir Radwan, who spent two months in the post, must ‘immediately’ address unemployment, low wages, services and security....No one should assume ruling Egypt is easy, especially after 30 years of despotic rule during which corruption has grown like a cancer. The problem the Brotherhood's leadership now faces is that they are no longer in opposition. They must act to show the electorate that they are worthy of the faith that has been placed in them, whether in parliament or government.”

The question of how to handle the Muslim Brotherhood was also addressed by the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, whose commentary on Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung was reposted on the Brotherhood’s website Ikhan Web: “We need to support processes of transition in North Africa and the Arab world – politically and economically. Through investment, educational partnerships and more open markets, we can do a great deal to improve people’s economic prospects and give them more opportunities in life.....There is an opportunity for moderate Islamic forces to permanently establish themselves in the form of Islamic democratic parties. It is very much in our interest for Islamic democratic parties to become established as a role model. That is why we should do everything we can to support this approach.”

But the Muslim Brotherhood is not the only major player in Egyptian politics. In fact, Egypt’s military rulers have remained a central target of the youth protests. In the face of the ongoing clampdown against the protesters, Egypt Today’s Pakinam Amer notes: “Yehia El Gammal, a blogger and a Twitter user who goes by the name @YehiaMelgammal, said he believed the ‘old-school generals will happily get rid of an entire generation to prove to themselves they are the sole guarantor of a corrupt state they’ve nurtured over six decades.’ Harsh? Perhaps, but it only reflects part of the anger of some at what the revolution has boiled down to: an ailing prime minister, a failing economy, an uncertain future and a steadily growing death toll among young protesters.”

Al Masry Al Youm’s Omar El  Sabh is also keen to stress the importance of alternative media as a way to push back against the military regime: “After the recent brutal crackdown on protesters in front of the cabinet by military forces, some are taking it upon themselves to deliver the message to those who are unaware of the infamy that took place at the time....A year after the initial uprising, we are still drenched in a war of information. It is unfortunate that there are some who believe that the revolution is over. However, the truth of the matter is that we are still struggling against a state and a system that refuse to raze the establishment of exerting power through violence. Alternative media, strategic use of public space, civilian marches, and the internet are the only tools that the revolutionary force has at its disposal to affect change.”

Yet not all assessments of the fate of the revolution are as pessimistic in their outlook. For example, Mohamed Elmasry asserts in The Egyptian Gazette: “Despite the extreme rhetoric by some political parties during the election campaign, all winning political parties are now speaking a different language of reconciliation, moderation, co-operation and collaboration. Another miracle considering that most political parties in Egypt were banned for the last 60 years....New Egypt – one year into the revolution is politically new and with a bright future. Top positions in the country, for example university presidents, are now elected by the stakeholders rather than appointed by government or by the president....New Egypt has a great future, I am sure. To Egyptians and their friends: Happy first anniversary for a great revolution. As for their enemies I say: eat your hearts out.”


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