Some comrades in Tahrir Square will celebrate the second anniversary of the revolution; some will protest, demanding the revolution continue and serious attempts be made to achieve its goals. Others will demand the overthrow of the president, deeming him and his supporters the biggest obstacle to the revolution's progress. All agree there are reasons for concern about reproducing the Mubarak regime.
In its first two years the revolution made some progress by removing some faces that poisoned the political scene, most prominently the ousted president, his family and senior figures in his entourage. It freed the people of their fear of abuse by the security agencies, even though this abuse only marginally decreased (using oppression now provokes more than it frightens, thus the outcome is the opposite every time).
It also removed the halo surrounding the military institution that prevented discussion in the past of its political activities and auditing of its economic institutions, and how they are run. It confirmed that the “red lines” are the sovereignty of the people and the blood of Egyptians, not institutions that are formed by them, funded by their taxes and created for their service.
The revolution also had some victories (although partial) over the Mubarak regime after it defeated his person and excluded regime remnants from parliamentary and then presidential elections. It also brought social justice back to the agenda after a long hiatus in economic policies during the era preceding the revolution.
It also eliminated restrictions on social and political activism, allowing for the political rise of Islamists.
But confining the revolution to these results alone neglects more significant and important upheavals in various unions, universities and social movements. Their repercussions have also started to appear in some traditional parties and associations.
History does not follow a straight path, and not all the outcomes of the Egyptian revolution are positive. The political rise of forces that have organisational experience but no political vision has been a source of concern for many.
Such a rise — of the strongest reformist opposition forces in the system that the revolution rose up against — is logical, when looking at the history of revolutions and Egyptian society. However, it is more of a challenge to rising forces than society itself, since it is difficult for these forces to confront the tide of history and battle the laws of the universe (as El-Banna put it).
The attempt to stop transformation based on deep and serious social demands requires a truncheon of repression that is no longer effective. The options, in the medium and long range, are either to respond to the new demands and accept reality, or insist on the conservative logic of the group, which render it obsolete.
In all cases, the rise of Islamists brings to the fore questions that have been postponed for many decades about “how” to regulate the relationship between religion and state. Also, the meaning of applying Sharia in a modern national state, defining personal freedoms, and drawing the line between what is private and what is public.
The answers to these questions will lead to the emergence of more in-depth and complex models of political expression of “Islamic” identity.
One of the main issues also facing the revolution is the current economic crisis, not only because it exists, but in how those in power are dealing with it (which is very similar to Mubarak’s rationale: lack of honesty and shifting the crisis instead of solving it).
There are also the repercussions of addressing it that could result in “re-containing” Egypt economically — and thus politically — in the axis of moderation composed of the US and Gulf States (whether Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Qatar), ending any hope of national liberation that the revolution was based on. It is no secret that the pressure some of these countries is putting on Egypt has started to bear fruit, influencing issues such as the attitude towards members of the former regime.
Another issue that is linked to the economic crisis is continued obsession with issues of identity (which is a fixation based on populist rhetoric rather than comprehensive visions that address the abovementioned key questions) at the expense of serious dialogue about alternatives in dealing with the country's economic crisis and the accompanying wave of escalating social protests; a dialogue that would explore the repercussions of all possible options and their social and economic consequences, as well as foreign policy and the structure of the regime. These are all questions that remain undiscussed, even when the issue of the economy, on rare occasion, is brought to the fore of the political scene.
The biggest challenge that still faces the revolution is the challenge of transition. Battling parties agree there is concern about the return of Mubarak’s regime, whether by reproducing its policies or if some of its figures re-emerge in the political arena and influence events. This concern is mainly based on the fact that Mubarak’s regime was not entirely terminated or dismantled, and is still being dealt with in an ambiguous manner — for example, the “flexible” use of the word “remnants,” that expands and contracts depending on political necessity by each party, exempting allies and including opponents.
To overcome this fear, there must be a more methodical and disciplined approach in dealing with the legacy of the former regime in a way that guarantees institutional transition, preventing the repetition of past crimes. This requires, first and foremost, full disclosure of the crimes that were committed, how they occurred, and the reasons behind them. This includes rights violations of various degrees (including extrajudicial executions by the police of terrorists who surrendered in the 1990s, and arbitrary detention), or those relating to corrupting political life (rigging elections or even stripping constitutional institutions of their powers), or economic corruption (including widespread bribery and influence peddling to squander state resources), or negligence at various state institutions that took the lives of Egyptians.
The truth should be revealed through broad committees for transitional justice. Based on their findings, the level of political responsibility will be allocated and those responsible excluded from politics. Changes in institutions and personnel should be based on clear criteria that ward off suspicions of 'Brotherhoodisation' and lessen worries that Mubarak’s regime will return, helping authorities remove the head of corruption and eliminate the reasons that cause it.