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The street, parliament and military: Will the protest movement speed up Egypt's transition?

On Tuesday, a demonstration will head to the People's Assembly to demand it take up the reins of power, accelerating the transition to civil authority

Dina Ezzat, Sunday 29 Jan 2012
March refrendum says: the president before the constitution" reads one of the banners raised in Wedn
March refrendum says: the president before the constitution" reads one of the banners raised in Wednesday, 25 January 2012, marches in Tahrir square. (Photo By: Mai Shaheen)
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On Tuesday at four in the afternoon a demonstration is set to move from Tahrir to the nearby People's Assembly to deliver a list of demands, primary among which is ending the unilateral control exercised by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) over Egypt's process of political transition.

According to a press conference for activists hosted Saturday by Al-Shorouk newspaper, the demonstration will demand that parliament assume its full powers, take over investigations into the killing of demonstrators since 25 January 2011, and supervise and expedite presidential elections in coordination with representatives from civil society.

According to a communiqué signed by 36 political groups and coalitions, parliament should ensure that SCAF opens the door to presidential election nominations on 11 February, the anniversary of the day that ousted president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, with elections conducted by the end of April at the latest.

Members of the coalitions signatory to the initiative told Ahram Online that it was expected that Islamist presidential hopeful Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh may endorse the demands, and possibly other presidential campaigns also, including those of Amr Moussa and Hamdin Sabbahi.

"We are not exactly pursuing political parties or presidential campaigns; we are working on garnering the support of the masses and this is the way to ensure that the demands put forward will be fulfilled," said Khaled Abdel-Hamid, an activist and leading architect of the initiative.

Securing a "sustained mobilisation" and grassroots pressure in favour of a prompt power transfer from SCAF to an elected civil president are essential to making fruitful the current wave of demonstrations, "which are necessary but still not sufficiently influential" according to activist and political scientist Rabab El-Mahdi.

Aware of the reluctance of the widely influential Muslim Brotherhood, and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, which controls close to 50 per cent of People's Aseembly seats, El-Mahdi suggests the need to have a strong parallel political body, "out of the Muslim Brotherhood," that could "sustain high pressure" pending the achievement of a transfer of power before the end of June.

The establishment of this political bloc appears a difficult challenge to live up to, however, according to political scientist Samer Soliman. "It is true that the current wave of demonstrations has created a new momentum of support for the revolution's demands but it is not clear how this new dynamic would develop or where it will lead to."

Like El-Mahdi, Soliman is of the opinion that the political groups currently leading the way master insufficient public support to force SCAF to acede to their demands, while the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated People's Assembly may not feel obliged to reciprocate either.

According to El-Mahdi, the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t see the need for "a revolutionary approach" to the demands of the revolution. "This has to do with the non-progressive nature of the Muslim Brotherhood organisation," she suggested.

Soliman, however, said he was hopeful that the power transfer would take place by mid-year, notwithstanding unpredictable developments. Among predictable developments that political activists and commentators refer to is the lack of consensus within SCAF about the power transfer by mid-year.

"It is not a secret that a good part of SCAF is not supportive of the power transfer, at least not by the end of June," Soliman suggested.

One subject of recent speculation is a possible deal between SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood to delay presidential elections pending an agreement between the two on a presidential candidate to the liking of both sides. So far, it is said, none of the potential candidates who have come forward are acceptable to either, except Mohamed Selim Al-Aawah, an Islamist lawyer with controversial anti-Coptic sentiment and a blurred association with the regime of Sudanese President Omar Bashir, who stands accused of crimes against humanity in Darfur.

El-Mahdi doesn't give this speculation much weight. "They are the biggest force that wants to see a power transfer," she said, notwithstanding the interest of the Brotherhood in shopping around a little further for a new presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, El-Mahdi, Soliman and Abdel-Hamid all but rebuffed a proposal made by former presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei for parliament to elect a temporary president pending the drafting of a new constitution. "This is an unrealistic proposal that (shows) that ElBaradei is completely out of touch," El-Mahdi said. "It conflicts with the pressing demand proposed by the demonstrations for a prompt power transfer," Soliman said.

And according to Abdel-Hamid, "the proposal of ElBaradei reveals a scheme that is designed to replay the entire [transitional phase] and this is impossible to do or to accept."

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© 2010 Ahram Online.