Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1279, (21 - 27 January 2016)
Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Issue 1279, (21 - 27 January 2016)

Ahram Weekly

On the stage of history

The roadmap announced after the 30 June Revolution is now complete, marking the beginning of the struggle to create a new Egyptian democracy, writes Al-Sayed Yassin

Al-Ahram Weekly

I borrowed the title of this article from my book, 25 January: The People on History’s Stage, published by the Arab Centre for Research in 2013.

This expression, used by French philosopher Alain Badiou in his book on the Egyptian revolution, is profoundly significant as it refers to the masses who long suffered and submitted to political repression and social injustice during the last ten years of the Mubarak regime.

On 25 January 2011, they thrust themselves onto history’s stage and stood in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, shouting, “The people want the fall of the regime.”

The 25 January Revolution and the exciting events that followed are like a revolutionary symphony, one that is unparalleled in contemporary world history. Applying the traditional structure of the classical symphony, the revolution consisted of several phases: a prologue and three movements.

The prologue took the form of the limited protest demonstrations organised via the electronic networking of Facebook youths protesting against the human rights violations of the Mubarak era. Their slogans were not totally revolutionary as they were restricted to demands for rights in the hope of reform. They chose 25 January — Police Day — for their major demonstration.

These young men and women, who were not sure whether the demonstration would draw enough supporters, were surprised to find millions of people from all classes and sectors of the population — men, women and children —converging on Cairo’s Tahrir Square. In a fleeting moment of history, a limited demonstration turned into a massive grassroots revolution.

The first movement of the symphony of the revolution opened with the mounting numbers of people in Tahrir Square and a gradually rising chorus of millions that bellowed out the slogans of the revolution: “Bread! Freedom! Social Justice!”

As the revolutionary wave swelled, heading into its 18-day stretch, the cry of “The people want the fall of the regime” soared like a comet through the firmament. The reformist slogans segued into popular demands and then into a revolutionary movement that would accept no less than the fall of the regime.

This occurred when Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that the president had stepped down and that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had assumed control. “The people want the fall of the regime” now became the iconic call of all the Arab revolutions.

The SCAF’s assumption of temporary power until new political arrangements were put in place marked the beginning of the second movement. Here, precisely, the basic melody, mellifluous as the opening tunes of Beethoven’s symphonies, begins to spin through a series of loud and boisterous strains, reminiscent of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

In Stravinsky’s piece, after the soft and melodious main theme, the listener is surprised by strident blares of dissonance, reflecting tension and confusion and stirring feelings of anxiety and alarm, as the work embodied the climate of warfare during World War I.

The cacophony in the second movement of our revolutionary symphony reflects a mixture of revolution and chaos, as well as the revolution’s pitfalls and the inability of the revolutionaries to forge a unified revolutionary front to participate in government. Gradually, the Muslim Brotherhood, the strongest and best-organised political movement at the time, managed to hijack the revolution by legal means.

This was made possible through a rushed referendum on whether elections or revolution should come first. As the revolutionary and liberal forces were unprepared for elections, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists won a majority in both the People’s Assembly, the lower house of the parliament of the time, and the Shura Council, the upper house of the parliament.

Soon afterwards, the Brotherhood leaped to the pinnacle of power after its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, became president. This initiated an era of political dictatorship that in turn triggered the popular uprising against it on 30 June 2013 with the bold support of the Armed Forces.

The third movement opened with the 30 June Corrective Revolution, which surprised the world with the people’s ability to bring down the Muslim Brotherhood dictatorship after unprecedented millions took to the country’s streets and squares.

Several days afterwards, on 3 July, Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi declared the roadmap for the new interim phase, which consisted of three stages: drafting a new constitution, holding presidential elections and organising elections to the new House of Representatives. The new constitution abolished the Shura Council and introduced a unicameral legislature.

The three stages have now been completed: the constitution has been promulgated after ratification by the people in a national referendum, presidential elections have been held in which Al-Sisi won by a landslide, and legislative elections have produced a new House of Representatives that has already begun its work.

The roadmap is complete. But the conclusion of the revolutionary symphony’s three movements does not signal a return to the main theme with which the revolution opened on 25 January.

Rather, it marks the beginning of a long struggle to create a new and unique Egyptian democracy that strives for a creative fusion between political freedom, social justice and respect for human dignity.


The writer is a veteran political analyst.

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