Two months ago (Jan. 2012) my wife and I traveled back to Egypt and were happy to participate as eyewitnesses to the first anniversary of the Egyptian revolution (2/11/2012). During the two months in Cairo, we met with friends and relatives. We also visited the American University campus and talked with old colleagues and some students. We were invited to participate in an open discussion with some young people who were among the activists in Tahrir Square, as well as with some members of the Kifayah Party. Personally, I was interested in getting people’s reactions and views of the revolution’s accomplishments during its first year, since the collapse of the previous corrupt regime.
There is no doubt that the Egyptian revolution was a major accomplishment for the Egyptian people, who were harshly suppressed for more than three decades. The young generation who led the revolution were born during the corrupt rule of Hosni Mubarak. They have seen and experienced how Egypt was run by a small mafia who were associated with the regime that controlled the country politically, economically, and even religiously, with an iron fist.
The younger generation has seen Egypt as a satellite for the U.S. and Israeli governments and being marginalized politically and economically in the Middle East in general and the Arab world in particular.
Nevertheless, during the past year, Egypt began to regain its traditional role as the leader of the Arab world and an active major power in the Middle East region. There are other major accomplishments that took place during the first year after the revolution. The following changes occurred:
1) A new and freely elected parliament for the first time since the 1950s. Also a freely elected Shura Council.
2) A new date has been set for the election of a new president. This will be the first president in the history of Egypt. On March 10, 2012, the official nomination for candidates for the position of president began. By the end of June, the newly elected president will assume his role officially.
3) Nearly a dozen or more high-ranking public officials have been prosecuted and received jail sentences. Others, such as Mubarak, his two sons, and others, are waiting for the court to announce its verdict on June 2, 2012.
These are among the major accomplishments that took place since the fall of the previous regime. In the mean time, not all objectives of the revolution have been completed yet. The expected reforms are being stalled due to the influence of the Egyptian Higher Military Council, who has failed to push for the drastic reforms the younger generation is calling for. The younger generation has been marginalized for the benefit of the old political parties. It is no longer a hidden fact that the Muslim Brotherhood struck a deal with the Egyptian Higher Military Council to accommodate each other’s political objectives.
In the mean time, the influence of the previous regime still exists, which has been experienced in different types of counter revolutionary acts. The latest was the Port Said massacre, and prior to that similar counter revolutionary acts took place, such as the Masparo attacks, the Mohammad Mahmoud Street, the Ministry of Interior, and the Prime Minister’s headquarters. All of these attacks were referred to by security as acts committed by a third group.
The Egyptian Higher Military Council has failed to cleanse the system from the influence of the previous regime. An example of this is the Ministry of Interior, which experienced the appointments of three ministers in one year. The police and security are not visible in the streets, and the Baltagiah (hoodlums) have a free hand in robbing people, banks, and in some cases blocking main roads to steal. Cars are a major target of theft, where some people can retrieve their stolen cars by paying a certain sum of money set by the thieves. The Ministry of Interior, as well as the judicial system, needs to be cleansed from those who were appointed by the previous regime.
There is no doubt that the Egyptian revolution, despite the negative consequences, is still viewed as a major success by comparison to other revolutions. The Egyptian revolution, which was backed by military forces that protected the people, was a major contribution to the collapse of the Mubarak regime. The first stage of the revolution was a total success.
However, the stages that followed reflect that the Egyptian Higher Military council was not ready to surrender their authority for a civilian one. After all, they have been in power for the last sixty years, and were part of the previous corrupt regime. Many of the problems that Egyptian society has been experiencing since the fall of the previous regime could have been avoided. The military council should have appointed a civilian transitional president to prepare for a smooth transition focused on the following:
1) The drafting of a new constitution by legal experts, especially academics in constitutional law. This could have voided the conflict that has been going on by those who have won the majority in parliament.
2) The election of the members of parliament should have been based on equal representation that reflects the demographic composition of the Egyptian population in terms of the gender ratio and adequate representation the Coptic community.
A quick look at the result of the election of the Egyptian parliament reflects an insult to democracy and common sense. Fifty percent of the Egyptian population consists of women. Only 8 women were elected out of the more than 505 members. How many Copts were elected? How many young people, who were the vanguard of the revolution, were elected?
These are among the major mistakes the members of the Egyptian Higher Military Council have committed. We hope that the future civilian government will assume real power to rectify some of the political mistakes that were made during the transitional period. The political model that will emerge in Egypt will have an important impact on the rest of the Arab world.