Is Egypt’s Revolution at risk?

Following the rather successful  conclusion of parliamentary elections in Tunisia, attention has now turned to  elections in Egypt. Coming almost a year after the toppling of the Mubarak  regime, elections will serve as a useful political barometer for the strength  of various political groups in the country. For some, though, elections will  also be an opportunity to consolidate or erode gains made during the last few  months. In particular, after the consistently strong polling results of Muslim  Brotherhood-associated groups, most of the questions being raised are about the  role that the Muslim Brotherhood is likely to play in a post-Mubarak Egypt.

In an article for the daily Al Ahram, Abdel-Moneim Said wonders  whether Egypt will follow Tunisia’s model: “[t]he Tunisian example is quite  refreshing, suggesting that the Islamists are capable of change and are trying  to keep the spirit of the Arab Spring alive. Will other Islamist-leaning  parties follow the Tunisian lead, or will they hold back the transition towards  democracy? Will the Islamists open up to the world and engage the international  scene, or will they be distant and xenophobic? The answer is to be found in  Cairo. With 80 million people, Egypt is without question the biggest fish in  the Arab pond. If it floats, the whole region will benefit. If it sinks, the  consequences will be felt outside its borders. So far, the scene in Cairo is  mixed. The Muslim Brotherhood is neither open-minded nor modern in its  tendencies….We don’t know if the Muslim Brotherhood wants the country to move  forward, or turn around.”

The signs coming from the main  political actors don’t necessarily point to a non-controversial election. Last  week, according to a report by Hussein Mahmoud on Ikhwan Web. “[a]fter five full hours, Tuesday’s conference for  the declaration of the basic principles of the Constitution of the modern  Egyptian state came to an end. Dr. Ali Selmi, Deputy Prime Minister for  Political Affairs, held the meeting with some political and party stakeholders  at the Opera House, from 11 am to 4 pm….The FJP did call upon political  parties and national stakeholders to take part Wednesday in a press conference…to  discuss the negative effects of Dr. Selmi’s initiative on the revolution and  the community at large. Meanwhile, the Wafd, the Tajammu’a and the Egyptian  Social Democratic parties have accepted the Principles document, amid strong  rejection by the FJP and Al-Nour, while six human-rights organizations  boycotted Selmi’s conference because of the issues of military trials and  ‘torture.’”

The growing divide among the  various Egyptian political actors in light of the newly proposed Bill of Rights  is also the subject of an article by Amr Emam In The Egyptian Gazette,“The gap between the nation’s Islamists on one hand  and the interim government and the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces  on the other hand seems to be widening, in the wake of the Islamists expressing  strong reservations about a package of supra-constitutional principles that the  Government wants the nation’s political powers to endorse, just weeks before  the nation goes to the polls on November 28….El-Selmi came under intense fire  from the Islamists last week when he gathered political powers to discuss a  Government-authored bill of rights, a document that contains the principles  that should govern Egypt’s next Constitution. Some political powers, including the  Islamists, objected in particular to articles in the bill giving the armed  forces the right to agree on arms deals without parliamentary supervision.”

As a report by Al Masry Al Youm makes clear,  relations between the military-backed government and the Islamist parties are  likely to become even more strained: “Islamists are planning for massive  demonstrations on Friday, 18 November, to protest the document of  supra-constitutional principles [that] Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Selmy is  advocating for. Selmy met with political leaders on Wednesday to discuss the  22-clause document, which will put in place certain guidelines on the character  of the state to be followed whenever the new constitution is written….Yousry  Hammad, the spokesperson for the Nour Party, stressed that the more Selmy steps  up his efforts to pass the document, the more his party will escalate its  efforts to prevent it. He claimed that 99 percent of Egyptians reject the document,  aside from the Tagammu and Wafd parties, remnants of the former Mubarak regime  and anti-Islamist groups.”

However, as Asharq Alwasat’s Abdul Sattar Hatita  notes, not everyone accepts the Muslim Brotherhood’s claims of moral  leadership. According to Hatita, “Sheikh Yusuf al-Badri, a well-known Islamic  preacher and former member of the Egyptian People’s Assembly, launched a  scathing verbal attack on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Group and the  Salafi movement, saying that these groups have the blood of many Egyptians on  their hands….Al-Badri fears that fighting between the Muslim Brotherhood and  Salafi groups is around the corner, and this he believes is because of  lingering disputes between the movements, which Al-Badri expects to intensify  at the upcoming elections or soon after. Al-Badri stated that currently there  is a committee for coordinating between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi  powers in order to avoid such clashes. The indications of that emerged at the  “Islamic sharia Friday” demonstration at al-Tahrir Square in July  2011.”

Challenges to the  military-backed government are not coming from religious organizations only. Sarah  El Sirgany of Daily News Egypt writes  about an imprisoned activist’s mother, who has gone on a hunger strike  demanding her son’s release: “Abdel-Fattah, an activist and outspoken critic of  the ruling military council, was remanded in custody earlier this month pending  investigations into accusations of inciting violence, stealing army weapons and  vandalizing military property on Oct. 9, during the Maspero events. On Oct. 30,  he refused to be questioned by the military prosecution since the army is party  to the crime it is probing, and that as a civilian he should not be  interrogated by the military prosecution….At a press conference last Thursday  members of the No to Military Trials Campaign, coordinated by Abdel-Fattah’s  sister Mona, urged civilians to follow in Abdel-Fattah’s footsteps and refuse  any interrogation by the military prosecution whether they are summoned as  suspects or witnesses. As Seif El-Islam explained, ‘the right to remain silent  is a basic legal right.’”

Others see the betrayal of the  ideals of the Egyptian uprising foremost in the area of women’s rights. Al Masry Al Youm’s Aliaa  Dawood is concerned that “Egyptian men are busy planning and implementing  another revolution, but this time women will not play any role in it  whatsoever. This is because it is a revolution against women’s rights. Those  behind it are organizations with names like the “Coalition to Protect the  Family,” “Save the Family Association” and “Egyptian Men’s Revolution.” Their  efforts, as well as those of many others, constitute a backlash against women’s  rights….Not surprisingly, many men — especially members of the Egyptian Men’s  Revolution and similar organizations — perceive the ousting of the Mubarak  regime as a wonderful opportunity to “regain their rights,” and this seems to  be happening. Their success is not because women are not entitled to the rights  in question, but because of who was behind introducing these changes and how  they were introduced.”

(mepc.org / 11.11.2011)

One thought on “Is Egypt’s Revolution at risk?

  1. its me Raef El-Ghamri maybe alot will mean I am a revolutionary but I like to say my opinion befor its too late, Egypt can never follow Tunis as we have a Military Council who is fighting against the Egyptian Revolution, this election what should be hold by the end of the month means the death of this Revolution, I hope that the great egyptians will have success to get a lot of millions to the street again on Friday the 18

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