Wanted: A Third Option in Egypt

Article Summary
Dissatisfied by the two candidates, Wahid Abd-al-Majid is hoping that a “third option” can keep the Egyptian revolution alive, even it is unclear if it can end divisions between the revolutionary forces. 

This is not the Tahrir Square that Egypt knew during the January 25 revolution. However, Tahrir Square regained much of its former spark and inspiration immediately after the court ruling on Mubarak’s trial was issued. Mubarak himself was condemned, but the ruling cleared his regime, which is in the process of being rebuilt. The sentence was appalling, especially since it came only days after the deplorable results of the first round of the presidential elections were released. But the divisions that have been growing between supporters of the revolution since March 2011 are preventing any effective confrontation of two consecutive shocks. We stand “hand in hand” in Tahrir Square, but outside, we are divided and conflicting.

Many Egyptians are therefore confused and lost just nine days before the run-off elections. An early transfer of power [by the SCAF] was a dream that cost the lives of many young people. But this dream has become meaningless for a broad segment of our people who do not want any of the candidates, even though one of them will be in the presidential palace in just a few more days.

However, this perception of a great revolution’s failure by the confused and the frustrated did not come out of nowhere. This revolution has not yet achieved any change from Mubarak's heavy legacy, and there is no indication that gradual reform is underway. His miserable legacy has remained intact, with the addition of social unrest, security chaos, political polarization and economic decline. The first round of presidential elections was nothing but the most serious manifestation of this reality. But its result was not surprising because it reduced the presidential race to a competition between two candidates who symbolize the main conflict in Egypt throughout the past decades. This conflict is between a state that has been reduced to a brutal and corrupt authority that relies on people of interest, and a group that has been reduced to a cohesive organization of forces, which thinks with a narrow mentality in many cases.

However, this conflict is being reproduced in a new form, and under more severe circumstances that were created by the revolution. The revolution will continue to have an impact, even if it has seemingly lost the support of a large segment of the people. After all, this revolution broke the barrier of fear that silenced Egypt for decades.

Thus, neither of the two candidates competing in the run-off will be able to impose his authority under slogans like “the need for stability,” “the need to end the chaos,” “restoring the prestige of the state,” or “give the candidate a chance to work, solve the problems and build the foundations of the renaissance.”

Regardless, some of these slogans have already resurfaced. It is either because he who will live in the presidential palace knows no other way to rule, or because he will not be able to work in an already volatile situation. The new president will try to control society’s turmoil, and may resort to the use of force – though soft force – in the face of protests that await him.

The winner may be able to use his legitimacy to limit the protests, but he will not be able to stop them because social injustices and factional demands are endless. This is one of the results of this generation’s experience with revolutions, which started in the Balkans. The Serbian revolution in 2000 spread to the Arab world, passing quickly through Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

All of these revolutions have yet to fully achieve their objectives. Compared to former revolutions, the dream of a “second revolution” will probably stay alive in the minds of a significant segment of our youth for years to come. However, if the run-off is conducted and the winner becomes the president without any significant problems, the quest to achieve this dream will be linked to the possibility of finding a third option. Such an option, based on the current reality, may depend on the ability of Hamdeen Sabahi and Abd-al-Moneim Abu-al-Fotouh – who came in third and fourth place – to cooperate in a new movement that is based on the youth. Restoring the dream of the revolution will require serious efforts. These efforts would involve a presence in the Square as often as necessary while simultaneously preparing for the elections. This is somewhat similar to what is happening in Georgia, as their revolution has suffered a setback despite having impressed the world in 2003. Freedom Square in [Georgia’s] capital Tbilisi has regained its radiance through the mass demonstrations against President Mikheil Saakashvili. Saakashvili came to power, through elections after the revolution, but he monopolized power and reproduced the former regime in a different form.

But working for real change in Egypt may not be delayed for nine years – as opposed to the case of Georgia – especially if it is possible to establish a new political “third option.” This new option would need to put an end to the divisions that have turned the forces of the January 25 revolution into distant islands. It is now difficult for them to ally with each other, even though they have more common reasons to come together than elements that would drive them apart. This is what Abd-al-Moneim Abu-al-Fotouh and Hamdeen Sabahi discovered late.

This new political movement could perhaps become a third option that is able to restore the dream before it turns into a nightmare; a nightmare that would lead to a second revolution, which may be different from the January 25 revolution.

Found in: third option, tahrir square, tahrir, second revolution, mubarak trial, mubarak, january 25 revolution, hamdeen sabahi, abd-al-moneim abu-al-fotouh

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