What’s happening in Egypt?

Demonstration in Tahrir Square, Cairo

Violent demonstrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square

It seems that every day brings contradictory news to the day before and it’s very hard to keep track of who is in power, who is in jail, who is demonstrating and who is keeping his head down.

In the last week or two there have been violent demonstrations in Tahrir Square, leaving over 40 dead and thousands injured at the hands of the police and army.  The people have been protesting at the long delay by the military ruling council in announcing a date for parliamentary elections.

The situation became so bad that the government presented its resignation.

Today it was announced that the former Egyptian Prime Minister has agreed to try and form a new government.

Egyptian former prime minister Kamal Ganzouri accepted a request from the ruling generals to form a new government, state media reported, but protesters brushed away their choice and vowed to hold another mass rally on Friday to demand the army quit power.

Ganzouri confirmed he had agreed in principle to lead a national salvation government after meeting with the head of the ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the website of state newspaper Al Ahram reported, citing sources close to Ganzouri.

n an attempt to defuse protests by thousands of Egyptians frustrated by nine months of military rule, the army council promised parliamentary elections would start on time next week. It earlier said it would speed up the timetable for a handover from military to civilian presidential rule.

If you think all this sounds like a recipe for anarchy, you would be right.  An interesting analysis by Sever Plocker posits that the Arab world loves anarchy:

This isn’t the first time the Arab world falls in love with the negative images it invents. This was also the case in the 1990s and in the 2000s, when the Arab world fell in love with the martyr phenomenon. Poets wrote songs of praise for the suicide bombers who blew up in Israel and media outlets spoke of them enthusiastically. However, the martyrs then started to explode in the streets of the Arab world as well.

The same happened when the Egyptians fell in love with the destructive military revolution they experienced in 1952, and this is happening now too: They have fallen in love with anarchy.

The “million-man” rally at Cairo’s Tahrir Square has turned into a sanctified term for them, a value instead of a means, an admirable historical symbol, without realizing that there isn’t much that ties this rally to real democracy. This is in fact an aggressive, belligerent and destructive move for their society.

Should there be no forgeries in the parliamentary elections, radical Islam is expected to make great inroads next week, and possibly even take over the country’s political system. We are not only referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, but also to more radical forces, including the Salafists – the most radical element – which are running in the elections as a party as well.

And so, Egypt will become home to three power centers that are hostile to each other: The military and defense establishment, which will have trouble accepting the loss of power and already wish to set up a supreme defense council based on the Turkish model that would counter the parliament and government; the religious establishment, which amazingly enough shall turn into the country’s strongest civilian force, something that appeared illogical only a year ago; and the third factor, the street and the violence; or in other words, the anarchy.

A differing point of view is presented in Asharq al Awsat newspaper by Ali Ibrahim:

Most of the traditional Egyptian political forces lost out in the bloody battle to recover Tahrir Square, which has become the source of legitimacy in Egypt ever since the 25th January. However, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis may in fact be the biggest losers, after their million man march which they called for last Friday, in a foolish display of power that seems to have provoked the very forces that carried the flame of the January 25th revolution.

Amidst this highly uncertain scene, and when viewed from afar, Tahrir Square and the protests in the rest of the Egyptian governorates seem to involve spontaneous and unorganized powers mostly consisting of young people from among those who launched the January 25th Revolution. These youths feel frustrated with the political powers, the parties, presidential candidates, the performance of the government and the military council, and the vague details of the upcoming power transfer and its timeframe. These youths are also frustrated by the revolution being hijacked through rival currents vying for power; currents sensing that their right moment has come, especially the Muslim Brotherhood.

Unless political wisdom is applied and leaderships with strategic and political visions are placed at the forefront, matters could get worse. I am talking about leaderships with the courage to direct country toward a national consensus, instead of the current state of political entrenchment.

In my opinion, the present crisis has been caused by the state of frustration and extreme political entrenchment of all parties, due to their inability to reach an agreement on a framework of general principles. Al-Selmi’s document, or the constitutional governing principles, was proposed to all the revolutionary powers from the start, when everyone was in a state of weakness and uncertainty. However, as some parties began to feel gradually empowered, such as the Muslim Brotherhood which has temporarily allied with the Salafis, they began to believe such governing principles would not be in their best interests, if they won a majority in the next parliament. Meanwhile, the liberal parties, which were the first to call for the drafting of such a document, objected to the clauses requested by the military establishment, which aimed to secure its position in the new state. A compromise formula could have been reached had negotiations been held, instead of the current absence of confidence.

The scene we are currently witnessing reflects the fact that no one has understood the reality of what the crisis-stricken Egyptian masses want. This is because the real driving force behind the revolution has not been able to crystallize itself into a political entity with representatives and a voice. The Muslim Brotherhood’s slogans are not convincing to the Egyptian street, and outdated methods of running the country have become futile.

What is the solution then? The idea suggested by some political entities, to form a national salvation government in order to administer the transitional period, could be the way out of the current impasse. However, this would require a strong personality with exclusive competence, who could work within a fixed timeframe for the transfer of power. A figure like Mohammed ElBaradei – if this were agreed upon nationally – would be suitable for this role. The same applies to any other strong personality with the power to make decisions, provided they are not affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr. Ibrahim’s analysis may be accurate;  however I fear that he is much too optimistic with regard to the Muslim Brotherhood and the other Muslim extremists.

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3 Responses to What’s happening in Egypt?

  1. Earl says:

    And the elephant in the room continues to be, as ever- Arab consanguinity.

    All of this elaborate analysis ignores the inevitable outcomes of countless generations of Arab Muslims interbreeding. But view events throughout the Arab Muslim world through that prism, and all becomes comprehensible.

  2. Andrea says:

    Time will say what it is going on being everything unpredictable. My colleagues in Egypt told me that last Brotherhood calling was far from being a success. Many of them were shouting “ready for martyrs ” marching in the streets but people looking at them were very indifferent.
    I personally doubt that elections will be held – a possible algerian style solution would be however devasting.

  3. Earl says:

    I pulled up Spengler’s most recent article on Egypt here:


    Precis of this and other Spengler analyses: Egypt is awash in corruption; has no functioning economy; will run out of foreign reserves in Q2/12; may begin to starve by Q2/12; has only one functioning political party (the MB).

    Whether elections are held or not- Israel’s best interests will be served with the junta remaining in control of what promises to be a completely dysfunctional polity. Continuing US aid to the Egyptian military might be leveraged to keep the Sinai stable and demilitarized.

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