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Egypt: An Uneasy Path to Democracy

23 Nov 2011 | 15:29

Egypt: An Uneasy Path to Democracy

Less than a week before parliamentary elections are scheduled, Tahrir Square is again filled with protesters demanding the reigning authority to step down. Numerous accounts of widespread violence against protestors recall the crackdown under Mubarak’s rule at the beginning of this year. Over 30 deaths have been reported with thousands wounded and unrest spreading to other parts of the country. The UN has condemned the violence and called for an independent inquiry into the abuses. Why have Egyptian’s taken to the streets again?

Several analyses identify the trigger as the presentation of a draft constitution last week by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the interim military body which has ruled the country since the fall of Mubarak’s regime. The document would give extraordinary priviliges to the military, putting it above the state and all civilian authorities. More generally, the latest protests can be seen as the culmination of disappointment at the way the military has led the transition.

In the most recent developments, the government of Prime Minister Sharaf resigned last Monday and the SCAF has given in to the demand to speed up the presidential elections. This however, has not been sufficient to end the unrest and it remains to be seen whether the protesters will back down if the military does not resign. Presidential elections are now scheduled to take place in July 2012, instead of 2013.

Political leaders of different parties seem to be united in their support of the protestors’ demand for the SCAF to step down. Parties disagree, however, about whether or not the parliamentary elections of next week should be postponed. In particular, Islamist parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood are keen on the elections to go forward as they expect good results. This is also seen as the reason why the Muslim  Brotherhood announced it would not participate in further protests. As for the current outlook it is difficult to predict the scope and length of the renewed protests. Analysts, however, seem to agree that the current unrest will continue until the demands of the protestors are met and the military recognises that it is part of the state and does not stand above it.

Egypt's aftershocks: Military vs the people
Source: Al Jazeera 22/11/2011

Violence in Egypt – flaring up again
Source: The Economist 21/11/2011

Egypt military pledges to speed up power transfer
Source: the BBC 22/11/2011

Egypt unrest: Army concessions fail to end Cairo unrest
Source: the BBC 23/11/2011

The election process and possible outcome
Even before protestors returned to Tahrir Square there was widespread unease about the upcoming election process. Several articles cite confusion about the complicated election system, in which 50 parties stand for election (with about half of these parties created after the revolution). As stated by Saed Abdel Hafez, chairman of a local NGO in an IRIN report: ‘Because people do not understand the system, they will most likely vote for the people or the powers they used to vote for in the past. This means that the next parliament will not reflect the new political realities created by the revolution.’

Analysis: a guide to Egypt’s first post-revolution elections
Source: Irin

Confusion clouds run-up to Egypt elections
Source: Al Jazeera 22/11/2011

The same analyses also point out that the Islamist parties seem to have gained most from the revolution. It is therefore widely expected that the Muslim Brotherhood will do well alongside so-called independents (who are often remnants of the old regime) at the cost of Liberal and Leftist parties.

Do Egypt’s liberals stand a chance?
Source: Foreign Policy 16/11/2011

Human rights violations and challenges for NGOs
Further discontent with the military rule will be fuelled by the latest report from Amnesty International that mentions little improvement on the human rights front. The report: ‘Broken Promises: Egypt’s military rulers erode human rights’ goes as far as to say that human rights abuses in some cases exceed the record of Mubarak. Main concerns over human rights abuses relate to military courts trying civilians, detention and torture of activists, and use of violence against demonstrators. An often cited example is the violent response of security forces on the 9th of October to a mainly Coptic demonstration that left at least 28 dead.

Egypt: military leaders have ‘crushed’ hopes of revolution
Source:  Amnesty 22/11/2011

Egypt: rule of law under siege
Source: Irin 22/11/2011

Meanwhile NGOs and civil society face increased challenges under the military rule of the SCAF. As mentioned by NGO leaders it seems that the SCAF ‘has mounted a “smear campaign” against them by accusing them of receiving millions of dollars from foreign donors to destabilize the country - going so far as to say the violence on the streets of Cairo during and after the revolution was supported by foreign funding channelled through NGOs.’ Subsequently, about 30 NGOs were branded illegal for receiving foreign funding and face charges of treason for being incorrectly registered.

Analysis: Tough post-revolution reality for NGOs in Egypt
Source: Irin 25/10/2011

Unwanted: NGOs in post-revolution Egypt
Source: world policy blog 1/11/2011

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