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How Democracy Could be Hijacked -- Anatomy of Egypt's Revolution

By       Message Esam Al-Amin     Permalink
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"After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb."~~Nelson Mandela

January 25 was the date the Egyptian youth decided to launch their revolution. As the fear barrier was broken, Egyptians throughout the country and from all walks of life joined the protests by the millions. Their main chant for 18 continuous days was "The people want the fall of the regime."

On February 11 that demand was met in a 20-second address by the recently appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman. Appearing on state television, he declared that Hosni Mubarak had resigned from his 30-year position, transferring his authority to a military council called the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

His brief statement epitomized the end of an era marked by vicious repression and corruption as well as the inauguration of a new era that all Egyptians have since been celebrating in the streets.

The military signified the last institution tied to the deposed regime that still retained the trust and confidence of the people. During the protests it declared neutrality between the people and the regime. Although it demonstrated some favoritism towards the former regime at critical junctures of the uprising, to its credit, it rejected the call by the deposed president to crack down on the demonstrators.

Insisting on their peaceful protests while focusing on their main demand, the pro-democracy revolutionaries did not take the bait of the deposed president by engaging in violence in response to the crackdown by the security forces. When the army was called to the streets, the public embraced it; frequently chanting "The people and the army are one."

Subsequently the groups that participated in the revolution formed loose coalitions in order to articulate their demands. The main coalition of the January 25 revolution, which included the most active groups and parties, has presented 35 demands to the new military rulers. These demands span all aspects of Egyptian life, including the political, constitutional, judicial, security, and economic levels.

Some of the most important demands encompassed the transfer of power from SCAF, which is ruling the country, to a transitional five-member civilian presidential council that would also include the head of the military; the dissolution of the lower and upper chambers of parliament; the dissolution of all provincial and local councils; the dissolution of the last government appointed by Mubarak, led by Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq; and the establishment of an elected and representative congress to write a new constitution.

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Other demands include the release of all political prisoners -- not only those who were arrested after Jan. 25 but also all political prisoners in Egyptian prisons -- the end of the notorious state of emergency law, the dissolution of the state security apparatus that ruled the country through intimidation and fear, the dissolution of the ruling party and confiscation of its assets, investigation of all corrupt politicians and businessmen, including Mubarak and his sons, who systematically stole hundreds of billions of dollars, and putting them on trial, as well as firing all board chairmen and chief editors of the state print and electronic media who were cheering on the regime and deceiving the public through their massive propaganda operations.

Role of the Military

In their first communiques, the military rulers declared they would embrace, without elaboration, the demands of the revolution. But out of the three-dozen demands of the pro-democracy organizers, they have only explicitly supported three major demands in the first 10 days, while remaining vague on many others. Some pro-democracy leaders looked at the pace and scope of the reforms with cautious optimism, while others were alarmed and raised genuine concerns.

It was clear that behind the scenes the military forced Mubarak to resign, thus playing a crucial role in satisfying the main demand of the revolution. Subsequently, the military council embraced a much narrower agenda by favoring limited constitutional reform. It appointed some of the most respected constitutional scholars in the country to amend the constitution, addressing issues related to free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections, including limiting presidential terms.

But this was the same agenda announced by Mubarak before he resigned, a much less ambitious feat than the public's demand for a new constitution. The difference was that the military, unlike Mubarak, selected credible judges and constitutional scholars who had no ties to the deposed president or his regime.

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Another crucial demand carried out by the military council was the dissolution of the parliament, which the deposed regime fraudulently elected last November. Moreover, in order to diffuse some of the public anger, the military council called on the state prosecutor to arrest three former corrupt ministers and one senior ruling party leader as they are being investigated for massive financial and political corruption.

The prosecutor also banned dozens of other former ministers and oligarchs from foreign travel, as he announced massive investigations on huge sums of ill-gotten money, bribery, extortion, and other acts of economic and official corruption. It appears that the corrosive behavior of power and money during the Mubarak regime is promising to bring down some of the most powerful and wealthy people of Mubarak's Egypt.

Much information that has appeared in the media since the downfall of Mubarak shows huge financial irregularities and corruption by the pillars of the former regime, reaching over a trillion dollars in one conservative estimate. For instance, many senior leaders of previous Mubarak governments, as well as ruling party leaders close to his son Gamal, acquired state lands or factories at rock bottom prices. In most transactions each individual made billions of dollars. Some even made in excess of $5-billion in one land deal.

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Esam Al-Amin is a regular contributor for a number of websites.

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