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When should we hold the revolution accountable?

The success and legacy of Egypt's revolution can only be judged after the governing system it spawns has a chance to correct the country's economy and political culture

Abdel-Moneim Said , Thursday 26 May 2011

In democratic regimes, the elected majority government in parliament or elected president is given a period of 100 days after which they are held accountable for their actions. Of course, anyone who is new in power cannot perform miracles and did not come to power out of a vacuum, but according to a platform and vision on which the people voted and elected them.

Hence, accountability is dependent on how well the new leadership assesses current conditions, its priorities and how successful it has been in convincing public opinion about the next steps. Also as important, is how the person in power deals with the opposition in parliament, media or on the street.

But this is not the way to deal with revolutions, which are an intense social and political eruption, and the 100-day rule cannot apply. In fact, no one knows when volcanoes subside or their temperatures drop. Those who want to gauge the revolution according to the amounts withdrawn from the country’s fiscal reserves or the condition of banks, prices, unemployment, tourism or investments, are attempting to apply the criteria of normal conditions to evaluate abnormal circumstances.

Revolution is a unique and historical condition, and its repercussions only become apparent after many years. And sometimes the fate of a revolution is only unknown once another revolution occurs, to reveal that the first revolution didn’t implement what it was supposed to in terms of instilling a more democratic and free political order, a more progressive social order, and a more prosperous and flourishing economic order. This all does not become apparent except in the long run. As Mohamed ElBaradei always says, important matters cannot be accomplished overnight.

It is not enough to merely state that current conditions are better than in the previous era. If conditions were as bad as they appeared, then the slightest improvement now would signal progress. The solution for this dilemma is in the hands of revolutionary leaders who not only must appraise previous conditions, but also continuously gauge current conditions. When the time comes and a new regime is established, only then would we be able to say – as Mohamed Hassanein Heikal noted – that the revolution is victorious.

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