It takes time for democracy ‘experiments’ to ‘settle.’ The US has 230+ years and still there are tensions. Many of those who achieved freedom in Egypt thought winning the 18 days equalled ‘job done.’ As they (and the Occupy movement) learned, you have to work within the system to change it or risk being dismissed by the better organised who then say, “run along now, good work, we’ll take it from here.”
Since Egypt remains under control of the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces); the revolution seemingly replaced one corrupt military regime with another; Islamist parties just won 60% of the Parliamentary seats causing some pundits to claim the nation is headed towards a theocracy… some now say the Revolution that toppled Mubarak, ignited to the Arab Spring, and spawned the global Occupy movements has failed.
They would be wrong.
Revolution is the relatively ‘easy’ part. It unites people against someone or something. Seeming anarchy inflames passionate patriots and they can create a groundswell that achieves great results quickly. Democracy and governing? That’s the messy part.
The Tea Party movement of 2009 vocally fought US government tax and spend policies. The Republican Party embraced and took them in. Once they achieved their goals electing 84 Tea Party freshmen (Republicans) to Congress, they were shunted aside by big money Astroturf issues. Despite huge electoral gains in 2010, in the 2012 Presidential election they are a non-factor.
Liberals in Egypt are up against a party that spent 83 years in hiding as an illegal entity, yet remained, quietly, very well organized. When it came time to campaign for Parliamentary seats, The Muslim Brotherhood were visibly campaigning, rebuilding neighbourhoods and villages whilst liberal parties were involved in esoteric discussions debating the size and shape of the peace talks table. Consensus was needed on every point and the lack of leadership, which was critical to winning the 18 days, cost them when it came to broader electoral contest. The MB knew how to campaign. The liberal parties who’d done the heavy lifting of the Revolution were similarly patted on the head and told, “well done, we’ll take it from here.”
And thus has it always been. The ragtag Minutemen fighters of 1776 were replaced by the founders; scholars and thinkers of their day in the Constitutional Congress. What many forget is the USA needed 11 years after declaring independence from the Crown to settle internal battles over states’ rights vs. a more federalist system. It was not all harmonious discourse and Britain was not giving up control of the Colonies without a fight. Two more wars were fought and the discussions were often heated pitting brother against brother. France also needed four years after their revolution. Egypt has had less than 12 months and the fear on the first day remains legitimate, will the military relinquish control to an elected government.
Why is this not headed towards abject failure? Because on January 25th, Egypt’s revolutionaries opened a 60+ year Pandora’s Box of systemic military abuse of the economy and that Genie is not going to ever fit back into the bottle. The people of Egypt suffered attack after attack by a regime that will not easily give up control. There are billions of dollars and military control at stake. The economy though is in a shambles and the tourism lifeblood is off 35%, hammered by scenes of violence in a 10-square block area as people think the entire country is still ablaze. Millions did not march in early February of last year to return to the same system with a different figurehead. Change will come. There will be more protests. More people will die. And all of it is part of a process of becoming free.
The final chapter of Egypt’s Revolution is far from written. The courts could do anything from make Mubarak, his sons and El Adly the scapegoats, convict and even execute them, to set him free and everything in between. The new Parliament will be charged with appointing a committee to write the nation’s new constitution which will affect 80 million Egyptians. They will take this very seriously, are a moderate more secular nation and fears of an Iranian style theocracy are unfounded.
The Muslim Brotherhood is not, as FOX and SKY try to say, a radical party. They are moderates and control 40% of the seats. The more conservative, breakaway Al Nour party alliance has less than 20% of the seats so expect a mostly moderate Egyptian government. The question is how much power will the military allow it to have? Who will lead this government as President? Will he/she be part of a freely elected bicameral government or will a party leader form a coalition government and assume parliamentary style control over the Presidency? These are the question to answer and stories to be told. We will continue to watch with great interest as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya try to become examples for Syria and other Arab, Persian and African states.
The original 18 days live as a testament to the will of the people to be free. These are to be celebrated because they achieved the seeming impossible. For each day starting tomorrow and ending on 11 February, we will publish a brief excerpt of that day’s events 1 year ago from the book Egypt Unshackled: Using Social Media to@#:) the System.
Those 18 days are what Egyptian schoolchildren will read about as avidly as they now read the exploits of Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak. 25 January – 11 February will forever be the days Egypt welcomed itself back.