Egypt’s revolution: From confusion to chaos
Periods following the fall of a regime are often turbulent, but some appear to be embracing chaos in the name of the revolution
Hassan Abou Taleb , Sunday 22 May 2011
Although there is a big difference between confusion and chaos, the condition of Egypt after revolution is a unique blend of both which is visible in current events, reactions and accumulated or deep rooted issues —whether feigned or sincere. This blend makes the silent majority feel that their country is in grave danger and that the great aspirations that came with the success of the revolution are now in jeopardy, the future unknown and possibly hopeless.
It cannot be denied that there is serious alarm and concern. Lack of security is interfering with the daily lives of Egyptians and severely undercutting national unity and cohesiveness. Talk of the remnants of the former regime and the counter-revolution might partially explain some of the acute events that have taken place, but this does not absolve the revolution’s youth, elders and prominent figures from responsibility for the state of confusion in Egypt that could result in genuine mayhem that overtakes everyone.
This state of general volatility that the country is in is the joint responsibility of old and new political forces and we see it in several indicators. First is the haphazard manner by which the nascent forces of revolution are operating, giving priority to mobilising the masses on a near weekly basis, to keep the people on the street and to include them in politics. Also, exerting moral and political pressure on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that is running the country, in a way that wastes the council’s time on peripheral problems that harm the country, its economy and social fabric.
These forces are not focused on building civic and party organisations capable of competing in a free and democratic environment, but are more interested in mutiny against the results of the referendum on 19 March in which 14 million Egyptians —77 per cent of voters —supported the SCAF’s plan of action for managing the interim period. The steps include parliamentary elections, then creating a founding committee to draft a new constitution, followed by presidential elections and the handover of power to civilians within one year.
This mutiny, rejecting the choice of the majority of Egyptians, aims to propose plans and ideas that completely contradict the referendum in the belief that the referendum was entirely invalid because it undercut demands to extend the interim period, postpone parliamentary elections, and impose a constitution that is not written by an elected founding committee. The referendum also put an end to the notion of forming a presidential council consisting of a small number of unelected figures who appeal to some but not the majority of Egyptians.
These forces do not tire of demanding that parliamentary elections should be postponed under the pretext that the revolutionary forces need more time to create a popular base. The most repeated excuse is that quick elections, in their view, would give control of parliament to the Islamists which could mean that the new constitution may enforce a religious state, not a civic one. Some revolution leaders suggest, as if it were a huge sacrifice, that first the constitution should be written by a selected not elected group, in a way that imposes specific characteristics for the state of Egypt and the new political order. This would be followed by legislative elections according to the new constitution. Others suggest a third option, namely creating a national council, which is not elected, to share power with the SCAF, and that would give priority to drafting policies in the coming phase and overseeing their implementation.
With all due respect for their proponents, these are not democratic ideas while democracy is the main principle of the very revolution they claim to be representing. They also contradict the choice of the majority who would vote in honest and transparent elections, and reflect exaggerated fears that society would not accept revolutionary leaders and their political and economic platforms. But this insinuates that some of those who participated in the revolution do not have popular roots —a rather strange and inexplicable paradox.
A second indicator is the way in which the issue of national unity and sectarian strife between Muslims and Christians is being handled, as if it were an issue for publicity or a symbolic one that can be resolved by raising and chanting zealous slogans, and continued protests that interfere with daily life and harm the rights of citizens. At the same time, the build-up of this issue over the past four decades is being ignored and the role of extremists in both the Muslim and Christian camps is being diminished. This leaves a vacuum for the passionate youth who are manipulated by religious leaders here or there, and discounts the principle of legal recourse, which should be applied to everyone without exception.
Third, ignoring the state of the economy, and the dangers of its continued deterioration. Despite statements by Minister of Finance Samir Radwan warning against the very precarious condition of the Egyptian economy today, none of the revolutionary forces prioritise the economy. Hazards include a drop in investment, shuttering and bankruptcy of many small and medium size factories, an almost complete halt in the tourism sector with a loss of nearly $1 billion every month, spending $3 billion a month from public reserves, a rise in the budget deficit to reach nine per cent, borrowing from the World Bank around $10 billion, a peak in unemployment, increasing professional demands at a time when production and exports are retreating, skyrocketing prices, and a lack in basic goods. And still, these forces continue to call for protests and strikes despite the negative effects and damage these have caused the overall economy.
The fourth indicator is not having perspective on the meaning of national security among the youth of the revolution. This is apparent in many incidents, most recently the call for a million man march on 14 May from Cairo to Areesh in Sinai, then on to Gaza under the banner of solidarity with the Palestinian people and opening the border. They also organised an open-ended strike in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo and attempted to raid it and clashed with security forces.
There is no harm in various political forces expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza or occupied West Bank, or anywhere in the world. And there is nothing wrong if solidarity by the people is a source of strength and support for Egypt’s new foreign policy after the former president stepped down —a new policy characterised by openness towards all Palestinian forces, opening the Rafah Crossing, concluding Palestinian reconciliation which had faltered for two years, commitment to continue efforts to end the siege on Gaza, implementing reconciliation on the ground, and supporting the Palestinians in securing international recognition for a Palestinian state within 1967 borders. But this positive transformation in Egypt’s foreign policy towards Palestine requires time to come to fruition, and if it is too hasty it could cause serious damage, especially because of complications on the ground and conflicting interests among Palestinians.
These are all issues and problems that require effort, follow-up and much political and security work. If it is necessary to show support through marches and symbolic organised strikes, resorting to putting pressure by the masses to open the border while discarding the legal framework and the bases of national security that regulate the protection of borders and organising movements on both sides, making light of the situation of Gaza as an occupied territory that is part of occupied Palestine, ignoring the role and responsibilities of the occupying power in territories under occupation, disrespecting the meaning of war and acting is if it were a walk in the park, this would all lead to entangled issues and compound the domestic situation like never before.
All this should make the majority of Egyptians more determined to conclude the interim period and hold transparent elections, to end this state of volatility and lead the country out of a terrible predicament.