Five Scenarios for Egypt in 2012

Article Summary
Despite the historic achievements of the January 25 Revolution, Egypt today remains in a state of limbo. The ruling military council seems unwilling to hand power over to a civilian government, and a possible alliance between it and the Salafists looms on the horizon. Awatef Abd-al-Rahman explores five possible scenarios for Egypt in 2012.

Egypt’s January 25 Revolution has accomplished achievements of historical proportions. It uprooted the head of [Egypt’s] ruling regime. Then, the [Supreme] Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] assumed power during a transitional period - exposing the level of corruption within the country and the [extent] of tyranny and oppression that had laid to waste the dignity and rights of the Egyptian people. However, the transitional period did not give the forces of change an opportunity to complete the missions on which they had embarked, and for which they sacrificed thousands of martyrs and casualties.

Arab and international observers seem to agree that the SCAF - which has ruled the country since President Hosni Mubarak resigned from office on February 11, 2011 - is responsible for the persistent tension and bloodshed. Although the January 25 revolution succeeded in eliminating the barrier of fear that governed the Egyptians for three decades, the revolution still faces a long and rough road. The year 2012 holds many expectations. The following are a few scenarios [of how the situation will unfold in Egypt].

The Confrontational Scenario

The SCAF has been slow in managing the transitional period and has neglected all popular and revolutionary demands. It has also insisted on maintaining certain regularities from the previous era. [The council] did not [demonstrate a serious desire] to prosecute the killers of those [Egyptian] martyrs [killed during the protests]. It did not [work to] recover the funds looted [by the past government] or bring the trial of [President] Mubarak and his aides - including his ministers and his politically and economically corrupt battalions - to a close.

[The SCAF] has not striven to secure the minimum and maximum wages in order to calm the [ongoing] faction-based (human rights) protests. It deliberately failed to bring an end to the insecurity and chaos, and has allowed the “third party” - consisting of remnants [of the regime] and their thug apparatuses - to attempt to finish off the revolutionaries and force them to [abort their plans and objectives]. As a result, confrontations [between the SCAF and protesters] have escalated.

Additional martyrs were killed at the hands of the police, the military and their secret allies (in the third party). Chaos has spread [across the country], devastating the economy, and [jeopardizing] the safety and livelihood of peaceful citizens. The military [council’s] ill-advised policies have bred tension in the country, and stirred collective concern and fear. This indicates that it may be impossible to establish the foundations for a the minimal level of stability necessary for the transitional period. [In this first scenario], conflict, tension and bloody confrontations will continue between the military [forces] and revolutionary currents.

Tension will escalate between the [different factions of the] Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, who have all stepped into the political arena without prior experience. [These parties have presented no] real reform programs, and [the democratic parties and political forces on the other]. For the majority of [Egyptian] citizens, the principle concern is to improve their dire living conditions and achieve the minimum standards of a dignified life in a free country capable of confronting tyranny, oppression and theft [of public money]. [These Egyptian citizens] are living in a state of panic and insecurity. [As a result, the people] might develop [feelings of] resentment toward the revolutionaries, and thus fail to acknowledge the [significance of] the historic transformation they have achieved: The rooting out of the head of corruption embodied by [the former President], and the end of the fear, pessimism and submissiveness that this [regime brought about]. The nation is thus entering a new qualitative stage, which requires increased collective efforts to achieve the task of change.

The masses remain captive to [the country’s] political stagnation, a passive mentality and media fabrications imposed by the [old] regime for thirty years. They hoped the revolution would improve their economic condition and free them from want, poverty and humiliation. Their hopes were dashed as a result of the political and cultural elite’s preoccupation with [personal] disputes and political and constitutional wrangling - not at all the people’s priority. For them, political talk does not put food on the table, nor does it provide them with the reassurances and stability that they seek. [The masses] believe that the elites should have backed the demands of the people instead of joining the ranks of the military and [supporting] their disreputable attitudes. They will therefore prefer to join the camp [that employs] force other than theirs. [The masses] have the primary right to the fruits of the revolution, as they have sacrificed thousands of martyrs, injured and disabled persons. This is not to mention the thousands of activists being tried in military courts. In contrast, those who killed martyrs are being tried in civilian courts instead of being tried in special revolutionary courts as was the case during the July revolution.

The Second Scenario

The extraordinary status the military institution has enjoyed since [Egypt’s first] revolution in July 1952, placed it above civilian accountability. The January 25 revolution has suddenly and unexpectedly propelled it to the forefront of the political scene because of its acceptance of the revolutionaries [and refusal to fire upon them under orders of Mubarak]. Therefore, [the military institution] has a responsibility to maintain its national heritage, image and international relations stature. But the involvement of some of its branches (the military police) in the bloody events that took place around the [Egyptian] cabinet’s headquarters led it to give up much of the popularity it enjoyed early in the January 25 revolution.

On the other hand, there appears to be division and fragmentation between the civilian elite and the revolutionary forces. The latter is determined to continue to mobilize [the Egyptian] street, which has the required vitality and momentum to pressure the SCAF into responding to the revolutions obligations and [the people’s] demands for change. In order for this scenario to come about, the revolutionary forces must unite, and the political forces - including the Democrats and Islamists - must collaborate under [a single] front governed by the common [interests] and necessities of the transitional period. [These political forces] must begin serious negotiations with the SCAF so that each party can recognize the economic and social rights of the other. They should also seek to remove the military [junta] from the political game, lift its grip on civilian life and pave the way for a democratic change away from the control of the military institution. But, they have faced hurdles.

It has been difficult to convince the military institution to return to the barracks to only assume its historical role of maintaining national security in the homeland. The public does not believe the SCAF’s repeated assertions that it will step down once the transitional period is over. [These statements] bring to mind the repeated assertions by [ousted Egyptian President] Mubarak that he has no intention to remain in power. However, he stayed in power for thirty years and even sought to transfer his rule to his some Jamal.

Investing in Divisions

The SCAF did not respond to the demands of the revolutionaries. It insisted on following a suspicious, mistrustful and dubious policy rather than fostering the conditions necessary for for change during the transitional period. [The SCAF] has adopted a policy that takes advantage of the [existing divisions between the people] and seeks to marginalize the public and their just demands. This has widened the gap between the military council and the supporters of the old regime, and all the forces striving for change. To bridge this gap, the political forces who have a genuine desire to achieve change must unite and join the revolutionary forces under [one] front, in order to pressure the military council through negotiation to respond to the fair demands of the revolutionaries and the Egyptian people. [These are necessary steps] to take the country out of this disastrous crisis and end the transitional period without the martyring of more demonstrators at the hands of the military and their thugs. [These steps will also ease] the ongoing political and social tension and aid the economy in decline.

The Fourth Scenario

Current political and social developments are calling attention to elements missing in all proposed [political] agendas. [These agendas ignore] the millions of hungry and needy inhabitants of slums, graveyards and the Egyptian countryside. These people have a legitimate right to regain their human dignity and life. They are an innate part of the [Egyptian] social fabric, and they have suffered for a long period of time during which their physical and moral existence was consumed. They regained hope and confidence after the January 25 revolution. It opened before them a new horizon to reclaim their [legitimate] rights to justice and freedom. But things did not turn out quite as they had hoped. All they got was further exclusion and marginalization by the political and revolutionary forces. The revolution set in motion growing popular mobility, prompting millions to take to the streets and demand their rights. The disaffected [classes] were expected to come out as well, but they never did. It was not due to a lack of awareness on their part, but rather to the lack of an organized means of expression. [Also, this class] lives in a state of [disenfranchisement], which prevents their voices from reaching the arena of the intense conflict between the SCAF and the political and revolutionary elites. However, when hunger strikes and patience runs out, their silence will be broken and the voices of wisdom and reason will fade from the scene. Then, the hungry will cry out, and their screams will signal doom and gloom. Neither the military forces and their weapons, nor the revolutionaries’ wisdom, nor the opportunism of the political forces will be able to contain the resulting disaster.

The Fifth Scenario

In light of the continued state of congestion between the SCAF’s militaristic management of the transitional period - which is antithetical to political norms and just civil rights - and the revolutionaries continued insistence in holding million man demonstrations and protests, it is possible that the SCAF will tighten its grip [on the nation] and carry out a military coup at a historically inappropriate time - locally and internationally speaking. This [scenario] would destroy the revolution and [lead the country] down a dark tunnel, especially if the Islamic groups (particularly the Salafists) ally with the SCAF. [This alliance] is very likely to be formed anyway, which would be a setback for revolutionary and nationalist forces. [The alliance’s] duration would depend on the ability of [the Islamists and the military] to unite and continue the struggle for national liberation from a militaristic and anti-modern Salafist perspective.

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