On the eve of the second and final round of presidential elections, the parliament is dissolved and officials of Mubarak's ousted regime are allowed to return full force. Dina Ezzat reports
"We are back to 24 January 2011" is a statement that many activists involved in the launch and success of the 25 January Revolution have been making during the past 24 hours.
On Thursday, 14 June, two days before the launch of the two-day presidential run-offs beginning Saturday, the constitutional court issued two decrees that completely shifted the parametres of the political scene: the first and most shocking was its decision to dissolve the six-month-old elected parliament, on the basis of the unconstitutional nature of the way its members were elected. The second was to pronounce the disenfranchisement law unconstitutional, thus allowing Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, to run for the presidency, and opening the door for the full-force return of Mubarak's top aides whose association with Shafik's electoral campaign is no secret.
The two court rulings, which were heavily blasted by political activists and commentators, came less than 24 hours after the minister of justice issued a decree allowing military police and military intelligence the prerogatives of civil police and intelligence in what was directly criticised by civil society and rights groups as a new attack on freedom.
"Coup" was the word that Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fottouh, a former presidential candidate who left the race after the first round, used to qualify the new political reality that has been complemented with a decision by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to retain all legislative powers entrusted with parliament.
The quick-silver pace of events took place against a backdrop of deep political confusion due to mistrust over the much-haggled composition of a constituent assembly that is to draft the constitution. It has also happened against a maximised sense of political juxtaposition with Egyptian voters forced to choose between two candidates: Shafik who subscribes directly to the former regime and who openly said that he looks at the ousted president as a role model, and Mohamed Mursi, an engineering university professor who represents the Muslim Brotherhood which has suffered a serious drop in popularity due to its unimpressive management of its parliamentary majority over the last year.
"First we were forced to choose between two bad candidates," said Naila, a political activist. "Now we have to do this with military police cruising around Cairo's streets and with SCAF recapturing all powers."
The 30-year-old Naila was planning to boycott the elections "not just out of rejection of both Shafik and Mursi" but also "to protest the farce that SCAF is imposing upon us under the name of a democratic process."
"Now it has become clear that there is no point at all in participating in these so-called elections because it is very obvious that what SCAF is about to do is return the clock back to 24 January (2011). On the eve of elections we are back to the Mubarak regime, but without Mubarak or Gamal Mubarak," she said.
Like other activists who spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly, Naila has "finally" come to the realisation that what SCAF had agreed to when it decided to "so to speak" protect the revolution was the elimination of a political scheme to get Gamal Mubarak, the younger son of the ousted president, to ascend to power as his father's successor. "But in fact they did not want to go beyond that," she said.
In a Zamalek café, Naila was meeting on Thursday evening with a group of activist friends to consider the next move. "I am not sure that going back to (demonstrate in) Tahrir (Square) makes any sense now. SCAF must be expecting us to do so and it must be ready with a reaction that would further discredit activists in the eyes of public opinion. We have to come up with a new strategy."
This new strategy, according to activist/commentator Bassem Sabri has to involve "a more coordinated style of work among political forces."
"The current situation might and might not have been preplanned by SCAF but we have to admit that all the political forces contributed to this situation by their failure to work together and build a consensus for the future right after Mubarak stepped down."
Sabri argues that "with every day that passed the political forces -- and I am not just talking about the Islamist trend -- were getting more deeply entrenched in their differences and thereby allowed the revolution to be undermined and discredited." He added, "It was a bit by bit approach but we ended up where we are now in a situation whereby the revolution has been almost eliminated."
Today, many activists accept that the revolution has been almost demonised in the eyes of considerable quarters of public opinion and that the old security apparatus of the Mubarak regime is back in business.
"This means one thing, that on Monday, Ahmed Shafik, the man that we refused to have for a prime minister for four weeks, will be the next president of Egypt," said Amr, another political activist. "If this is not the death certificate of the revolution and by the way, a spokesman for the Shafik campaign said Shafik making it to round two meant the revolution had ended then it should be a final warning that we either get our act together or we will all be blamed for having made a great revolution and then completely wasted it."