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Oct 30, 2011

A Revolution or a Military Coup?

The Arab Spring Revolution that first started in Tunisia in December 2010 and which spread to Egypt on January 25th, 2011, sent shock waves worldwide. The Egyptian Revolution in particular was referred to by foreign politicians, journalists and academicians as the most inspiring and peaceful uprising in the last 400 years. Some even stated that it was a model that should be taught reflecting on the commitment of the younger generation who aspired to achieve their goal peacefully. What happened in Egypt less than a year ago has inspired young people almost globally to rise and lead their own protests against their own governments demanding an end to corruption and demanding reforms.

Such protest movements began in Russia, China, Israel, Spain, Portugal and the U.S. In some of these countries, slogans that were used in Tahrir Square in Cairo were adopted. The American press has referred to the fact that young Americans who were protesting in front of Wall Street were inspired by the Egyptian Revolution.

The critical question that I would like to ask about the Egyptian Revolution is whether the younger generation, who were the vanguard of the protest movement, has won or not. Did the Egyptian Higher Military Council accept and implement their demands? It is not that easy to answer such questions with accuracy. Some demands were met and others are pending or were ignored completely.

During the past few months, some journalists, political analysts and even some of the leaders of various political groups began to raise some doubts about the sincerity of the Egyptian Higher Military Council, especially General Tantawi. The leadership of the Military Council has been moving slowly by design and has already rejected some of the major demands of the protestors. For example, the majority of these political groups, with the exception of the Muslim Brotherhood, have demanded the drafting of a new constitution before the election. One of the circulating rumors that the Military Council has made is that the Military Council has made an agreement with the Muslim Brotherhood leadership to delay the drafting of the constitution. Those who are familiar with the political situation have reached the conclusion that the upcoming election in November will lead to a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood political group, who will be in a better position to influence the drafting of the new constitution.

There are other demands that the young protestors have made over and over and the response has been slow so far. These issues include the cleansing of the judicial system, various governmental institutions, academic institutions and the Ministry of Interior. Many important figures that were appointed by the previous government are still there and are performing their political roles as usual as if nothing has happened. Another demand that the protestors made is the prevention of any members from the previous ruling party from running in the November election. The Military Council rejected that demand. The press has already predicted that around 35% of the seats of the parliament will be taken by ex-members of the previous ruling party in the November election. If this happens, then the revolution is back to square one.

Furthermore, almost nine months have passed and security in the society at large still has not been achieved. The baltageya (hoodlums) are still posing a risk to the public and are being used by people with money and influence from the previous regime. The rationale behind it is to create a counter-revolution.

There are many wealthy individuals who have acquired their wealth during the Mubarak period. No attempt has been made to investigate some of these people. To put it clearly, the Higher Military Council is not doing what was expected of them.

It seems to many of the protestors, especially the leadership of the younger generation, that the real meaning of the revolution has not been understood or made clear. The official definition of a revolution, according to the Webster dictionary, is “Constituting or bringing about a major change. To change fundamentally or completely.”

So far, the pace of change has been a slow one, and I am of the opinion that the Military council does not intend to bring changes that might lead them to surrender their authority to a civilian elected government. After all, the Military Council was part of the previous regime and has been in total command of the Egyptian government since 1952.

General Tantawi and his military group have supported the revolution as the best option that was available to them at the time for two reasons. Before Mr. Mubarak surrendered his authority, he issued an order to replace Mr. Tantawi as the defense minister when he refused to turn the army against the protestors. Second, General Tantawi is a wise and rational man. The number of protestors in Tahrir Square reached three million people and another 15-17 million were protesting in different Egyptian cities at the same time.

It would have been an impossible task for any military general to turn the army against the millions of protestors. Obviously, General Tantawi made the right decision and won the public’s trust.

Second, the army will support some democratic reforms, such as free elections that will lead to the formation of government by the winning political party or the group who ends up with the majority of seats in parliament.

The military has been saying that they will transfer their authority to the newly elected government. However, I have my own doubts that they will continue to have the power and influence governmental policy from behind the scenes.

Third, the Egyptian Higher Military Council has been running and managing a sector of the Egyptian industrial economy, but not too many Egyptians are fully aware of it. Where does the financial benefit from this sector go and who is in full control of it? The response to such questions is always that the issue should be kept secret and it is part of the Egyptian military national defense strategy. I am wondering if the 25th of January Revolution will turn out at the end to be a military coup.

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