- World headlines are worrisome. On February 13, London's
Guardian headlined Egypt's military rejects swift transfer of power and
suspends constitution," saying:
- Ruling generals rejected protester demands, saying they
intend "to rule by martial law until elections are held." The
announcement followed suspension of constitutional rule, retention of Mubarak's
cabinet, and military police head, Mohamed Ibrahim Moustafa Ali, ordering
protesters out of Tahrir Square under threat of arrest.
- Many left "but a hardcore refused, saying they would
remain until the army took a series of steps toward democratic reform including
installing a civilian-led government and abolishing the repressive"
Emergency Law, in force since 1981.
- Instead, communiques have said chaos, disorder and strikes
are prohibited, an ominous police state sign tolerating no dissent for
an indefinite period. In other words, new faces are enforcing Mubarak-style
despotism if harsh crackdowns follow.
- Many pro-democracy supporters were alarmed, including
Mohamed ElBaradei saying "We need heavy participation by the civilians.
It cannot be the army running the show." One of the protest organizers,
Mahmoud Nassar, said demonstrations will continue, adding:
- "The revolution is continuing. Its demands have
not been met. The sit-in and protests are in constant activity until the
demands are met. All are invited to join."
- On February 14, Reuters headlined, "Army orders
last protesters out of Egypt's Tahrir," saying:
- Those who held out out were cordoned by military police
and soldiers, then told to leave under threat of arrest. One there said:
- "We have half an hour left, we are condoned by military
police. We don't know what to do. We are discussing (it) now. (They) told
us we have one hour to empty the square" or else.
- On February 14, New York Times writers Anthony Shadid
and David Kirkpatrick headlined, "Army Clears Last Protesters from
Tahrir Square," saying:
- Egypt's military removed them to consolidate "their
control over what it has called a democratic transition" from Mubarak's
authoritarian rule. "How completely the military will deliver on its
promises of a transition to a constitutional democracy will not be clear
until the election," announced in six months with no specific date.
- On February 14, Haaretz said "(s)oldiers scuffled
with protesters....as the army sought to ensure traffic flow through the
central Cairo square." Friday may prove decisive when a huge "Victory
March" is planned, "perhaps remind(ing) the military of the power
of the street" against which it has plenty of its own to exert.
- Everything so far is uncertain, including:
- -- transition to civilian rule if it comes and when;
- -- a revised or new constitution if there is one with
real democratic changes;
- -- rescinding emergency power rule if ordered;
- -- abolishing military courts;
- -- open, free and fair elections if they're held;
- -- candidates allowed to run, assuring transfer to civilian
- -- ending temporary martial law authority;
- -- releasing political prisoners;
- -- allowing media freedom and dissent;
- -- and other protester demands.
- According to City University London Professor Rosemary
- "The two big questions now are who is going to be
on the constitutional committe to redraft (a new document), and are there
any guarantees that what they come up with is then going to be deemed the
way ahead," according to protester demands. So far, uncertainty and
gray areas remain.
- Some believe that transitioning to democracy won't be
easy after decades of authoritarianism. Old ways die hard, including military
rule, fraudulent elections, rampant corruption, and police state harshness
- For now, unease grips the country. Pro-democracy activists
remain committed, but most so far dispersed. On Monday, however, hundreds
of employees demonstrated outside a Bank of Alexandria Cairo branch, urging
their bosses to "Leave, leave," echoing their anti-Mubarak chant.
- Other protests, sit-ins and strikes occurred at state-owned
institutions across Egypt, including the stock exchange, textile and steel
firms, media organizations, the postal service, railways, and Culture and
Health Ministries. An array of grievances were aired, but authorities now
prohibit public actions.
- On February 14, London Independent writer Robert Fisk
headlined, "Is the army tightening its grip on Egypt," saying:
- Mubarak's appointed prime minister, former General Ahmed
Shafiq, said his first priorities were "peace and security (to prevent)
chaos and disorder," the same words Mubarak used so often. "Plus
ca change" plus c'est la meme chose? The more things change, the more
it's the same thing, unfolding in real time in Egypt.
- What began peacefully turned harsh. "Military policemen
in red berets....emerged to control traffic. But then a young officer began
lashing demonstrators with a cane - old habits die hard in young men wearing
uniforms - and for a moment there was a miniature replay of the fury (displayed
by) the state security police here on 28 January."
- At issue is whether ousting Mubarak handed control to
generals "who achieved their power and privilege under" him.
Also, no specific election date was announced nor if it'll be open, free
and fair as promised. Moreover, though military council authorities said
its power will last six months, it's unknown if they'll renew or extend
- "But a clear divergence is emerging between the
demands of the young men and women who brought down the Mubarak regime
and the concessions - if that is what they are - (if) the army (is) willing
to grant them." The combination of emergency and martial law power
leaves the military free "to ban all protests and demonstrations as
Mubarak" decreed. So far at least, plus ca change indeed!
- Hints but No Confirmation of Coming Changes
- Al Jazeera and other reports say ruling Egyptian generals
gave indications of moving rapidly to amend the constitution by popular
referendum and share power with civilians, according to Britain's Foreign
Secretary William Hague. He said Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik told him he'd
reshuffle his cabinet ahead in weeks to include opposition figures.
- On February 14, New York Times writers David Kirkpatrick
and Anthony Shadid headlined, "Egypt's Ruling Generals Meet with Opposition,"
- They "told a coalition of young opposition leaders
that they plan to convene a panel of distinguished jurists to submit a
package of constitutional amendments within 10 days for approval in a national
referendum within two months...." At the same time, they reacted angrily
to strikes and public demonstrations, including by state workers, ordering
- At issue, of course, is whether promises mean real change
or whether what's coming is more pretense than reform. Remain skeptical
as events unfold, accepting nothing on face value. Real democracy excludes
generals. Their presence under martial law is very worrisome.
- Stratfor's Assessment
- Stratfor's George Friedman speculated on what's ahead,
- "Except for Mubarak, the army remains in charge,
(and) the fundamental warp and woof of Egypt is intact. We've not had a
dramatic sea change....I don't know what (generals mean by) democracy."
Anything ahead is possible, but rhetoric doesn't explain. "Pay very
little attention to (what's being said) at this point. Even as we saw (earlier),
we didn't have to pay attention to what Mubarak said. So let's take a look
at the objective situation. Let's forget all the statements and so on."
- Egypt's army is in full control. It's the nation's "central
institution" and its most powerful. "Do I expect an election
in which a dramatic change takes place in who (gets) elected? I suspect
not, but (then) I'm not even sure when elections" are coming. All
that's clear is that generals are in charge. They'll pretty much do what
they want as they've always done.
- In a follow-up commentary, Friedman said post-Mubarak,
"the military regime in which he served has dramatically increased
its power. This isn't compatible with democratic reform."
- At this point, we don't know what's ahead. However, "(p)ower
rests with the regime, not with the crowds. In our view, the crowds never
had nearly as much power as many have claimed." Dispersed, for sure
they don't, and once energy ebbs, reenergizing it isn't easy, especially
if military forces abandon friendliness for harsh crackdowns.
- What happened so far wasn't a revolution. The military-controlled
regime remains in tact, solidified by coup d'etat rule. Only Mubarak's
gone. A powerful junta remains. It's run Egypt for decades. It's hard imagining
they'll stop in six month, perhaps ever unless real revolutionary change
forces them. So far, it's nowhere in sight, but possibly could emerge.
As Friedman explains:
- "N)othing much has really happened in Egypt. It
doesn't mean that it won't, but is hasn't yet. An 82-year-old man (was
deposed), and his son will not be president. The constitution and parliament
are gone and a military junta is in charge. The rest is speculation."
Indeed so, especially against raw military power if unleashed.
- A Final Comment
- So far, little in Egypt changed. Its military remains
in charge, governing by martial and emergency law rule. Curfews are still
enforced, shortened from 10 to six hours nightly. Diktats are being issues,
called communiques, Mubarak's appointed Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq saying,
"There is no change in form, or method, or the process of work. Matters
are stable completely." Protests, unrest, instability and chaos will
face crackdowns. No permanent Gaza border opening is planned.
- Tahrir Square protester Adel el-Ghendy expressed alarm
- Soldiers "told us to go. They removed our tents
but we will stay. We want another government. We need civilian government.
They want to steal our revolution."
- Another man, Ahmed Abed Ghafur, said:
- "This is a revolution, not a half-revolution. We
need a timetable for elections. We need an interim government," not
one by generals. "We need a (civilian) committee for a new constitution.
Once we get all that, then we can leave the square."
- Reports said skirmishes broke out. At least 30 arrests
were made. Detainees were taken to a military compound near Egypt's museum
where others arrested earlier were beaten and tortured.
- Others worry that military authorities won't keep promises,
including ending martial and emergency law rule. They're part of Egypt's
ruling class aligned with business, other elite interests, Washington,
Israel and the West.
- Under Mubarak, they were hostile to social, political
and economic demands, including human and civil rights, better jobs, higher
wages, improved living conditions, and democratic reforms. Why now should
they change, including by fulfilling promises perhaps made to be broken?
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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