Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1129, 3 - 9 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Above the din

Politics has yet to outflank revolution. Which will win the next round, asks Ibrahim Farouk

Al-Ahram Weekly

Young Egyptians have launched more than 100 Facebook pages and groups calling for a second revolution on 25 January 2013. Meanwhile, the National Salvation Front (NSF) is adapting to the political game according to the new rules. According to Azazi Ali Azazi, a member of the Popular Current and NSF, meetings are underway among all political groups in the NSF to decide on the criteria for selecting parliamentary candidates.
“We will contest all seats in the parliamentary elections with a united platform which we are currently preparing,” declared Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, head of the Popular Socialist Rally Party and leading figure in the NSF.
As youth rallies for a second revolution and the NSF plots a path through the political morass it is unclear what the coming phase holds.
Decision-makers are in a dilemma over economic policies that will burden citizens with more taxes and higher prices and observers, economists and analysts all agree that the economy threatens to compound conditions that could further inflame the Egyptian street.
The long delayed address by Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, delivered at the beginning of parliamentary session 33 in front of the Shura Council, came as a shock to economists: it was dominated by reassuring indicators about an economy which experts say is at the precipice. The president appeared uninformed, and desperate to polish the image of his administration which has consistently failed to foster consensus and now presides over a country on the verge of bankruptcy.
Against this backdrop of complex and confusing developments several questions come to mind: What happens next? Which direction will Egypt take — revolution or politicking? Which voices will rise above the din and end the confusion?
Egyptians — and others — seeking answers to these questions from their own perspectives may not be fully aware of the dynamics and benchmarks of a revolution that began several months before 25 January 2011, continued for 18 days until Hosni Mubarak stepped down and then passed more milestones, at Maspero, Mohamed Mahmoud Street, the cabinet headquarters, Abbasiya and Al-Ittihadiya presidential palace.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ (SCAF) disappearance from the scene, the victory of a Muslim Brotherhood (MB) president, events during the writing and ratification of a constitution without consensus, all this — in the absence of leadership or structure — has reinforced the determination of young and popular forces to continue the revolution until its conclusion. Whatever its source, this call is daily growing louder, gaining ground even as the political game continues along well-worn paths under Islamist rule and opposition forces forge a broader alliance beneath the umbrella of the NSF.
Celine Catchion is a French national who came to Cairo more than one year ago to study Arabic at the French Cultural Centre in Mounira. She could pronounce a single phrase proficiently in Arabic when I met her: Al-thawra mostamera (The revolution continues). Catchion believes that Egyptian youth, although they lack clear leadership, are the strongest force because of their drive and determination. They are also the only current today that can create milestones on the road to development and is qualified to complete their revolution.
She said that despite the NSF’s diverse liberal composition and outlook and the fact it was born to express the demands of these youth groups and their revolution the coalition does not understand that the entire political game has been shunned by the young. This is why there is a strong call for another revolution. Young Egyptians will not tolerate political cover-ups or fudges that fail to bring to account and prosecute those who killed, and continue to kill, their friends. In their view all politicians, even those in the NSF, are involved in an attempt to brush recent painful issues beneath the rug.
Younger generations in Egypt believe their new homeland should be very different from what it is. They see a need to clear the ground before rebuilding again. None of this can happen under the current regime, even if many believe it will achieve stability.
Alessio Balfironi, a young Italian researcher cooperating on a book on the Arab Spring with EU funding, agrees with the young French woman living in Cairo.
“Having lived through daily events in Egypt I believe the problem is the large and expanding gap between politicians and the street,” says Balfironi.
“Politics have failed to answer many questions, and the young are asking more questions every day. They are fobbed off with modest replies and political action unworthy of the revolution and its demands — especially under a regime that paints policies with its ideology.
“Even the NSF, which is trying to fill the political revolutionary void, is compelled to engage in politics according to the new rules set by political Islam. Both camps are out of harmony.”
According to these two young Europeans three forces, conditioned by developments on the ground, will determine the outcome of the coming phase.
There are the two political camps that belong to different ideologies: the Islamists along with the president, Shura Council and regime; and the opposition under the NSF umbrella. Both are counting on the next round of parliamentary elections. And each is trying, however apprehensively, to approach the other.
The first, led by the president, is trying to build a bridge with the opposition led by Mohamed Al-Baradei and Hamdeen Sabahi, and with forces on the left. It is seeking political respite after forcing through a constitution without consensus and in a referendum marred by irregularities. At the same time the Islamists are trying to force their religious discourse on society and stop all forms of real opposition on the ground by revolutionary youth.
Islamists, concerned about renewed demands for the overthrow of the regime and a second revolution on 25 January, now find themselves appealing to the NSF and its leaders, many of whom were being sued for plotting to overthrow the regime in cases instigated by Islamists. Tellingly, these court cases were withdrawn as soon as the constitution was passed.
Meanwhile, the NSF is seeking to conditionally reconnect with the regime to avoid more bloodshed and social and economic losses. It understands that a sharply divided street and a damaged economy bodes well for no one.
The third force at play in the arena, described by many as “invisible”, is the youth revolt. Regardless of labels, names and descriptions they have been an effective force, forging ahead on the path of revolution and paying dearly. This force is currently focussed on what they call the third wave of revolution. The first brought down Mubarak’s regime; the second eliminated SCAF and the third aims to eject the Islamists from power. They have no doubt that this will involve more of the clashes that have been a feature of the last two years, especially given that the MB, Salafis and the regime led by the president and his government are confused. Their narrow-minded outlook in dealing with the demands of the revolution has led them to take increasingly erratic decisions that escalate the crisis. Their default position is that of the Mubarak regime. They adopt the same policies, though now the policies are announced by men with beards.
The youth, while they believe the way to evict the regime is not through politics but revolution, also assert their revolution is peaceful and that the regime is trying to muffle their voices. This was demonstrated by the fate of the sit-in outside the presidential palace and in Tahrir where a young activist, Mohannad Samir, was shot and is lying in hospital between life and death. In reaction to the shooting revolutionary youth, intellectuals and artists decided to cancel their celebrations of New Year and continue their revolution.
These three forces will continue to collide. Only time will tell whose voice will rise above the din.

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