Thursday, February 10, 2011

What next for the Egyptian Revolution?

Just as the Egyptian people's uprising took everyone by storm, it is difficult to predict what will happen next. When you are in Tahrir Square, you feel free and feel hopeful that democratic change is imminent. As soon as you leave, you are hit by the mundane normality of other areas especially during non-curfew hours, various political analyses and fear and loathing of Omar Suleiman's statements. Egypt is thus facing any of the following, they are not prioritised according to probability:

1. There have been talks about the need for escalation since Mubarak would not budge from his chair and Suleiman would not stop insulting an already boiling nation by claiming they're not ready for democracy. One step protesters already took on Tuesday the 8th of February is to expand their sit-in to the streets surrounding the parliament and cabinet, effectively forcing the prime minister and the employees to convene in another ministry. If they all decide to march to the presidential palace which is roughly seven kilometres away, they may be forced to disperse by the presidential guard, and there will be blood. We all know the president does not even live there anyway and remains at an undisclosed location, which poses questions on the effectiveness of this move. Not to mention that if they decide to leave Tahrir Square, they most probably will lose it forever.

2. If protesters decide to stay camping in Tahrir Square until their demands are met, Suleiman might carry out his promise to be intolerant and send police forces to disperse protesters although the army is present. It will be a massacre only paralleled by Tiananmen. Even if the brave people camping or taking shifts or even visiting the square succeed somehow at forcing police troops back, their numbers will drop heavily. In the past week the numbers of protesters have soared because it is now safe enough for people to even take their kids. This would not have been the case if the square had instead been encircled and enmeshed by the police. Only 10 or 20 thousand people at most would have been able to brave the blows, expired tear gas canisters and live ammuntion (of course symbolically for that last police tactic).

3. A military coup. The Minister of Defence is a loyal disciple of Mubarak and has been in power for twenty years. Chief of Staff Sami Anan is reportedly not on terms with Suleiman, although my father tells me he is a douchebag and would not make such a decision. (If you misunderstood Suleiman to be the douchebag, you haven't gone very far).

4. A confrontation with the military. Sources say though the military sympathises with the demands of the people, Mubarak is still revered as one of the 6th of October War heroes. If protesters decide to march to the presidential guard anyway they could face the military and the people may either retreat or decide to camp beside the presidential palace, which is in a quiet area far from the centre of turmoil in Tahrir Square. There especially has been a shameful helplessness on the part of the army during the surreal February 2nd medieval battle and the following Thursday dawn massacre which left 13 dead.

5. A confrontation between the military and the police, this has just come from my wildest dreams anyway. It is very unlikely.

Of course, protests are still going strong in many cities and today thousands of workers and employees have started a strike either to demand greater pay from the current government or in support of the revolution. As far as I can see, protesters are not backing down and the thousands of underpaid government employees will probably seize the chance and expand their battle for dignity and democracy.

Matters are unpredictable in Egypt. There are of course other possible scenarios. No scenario I have stated or not is an easy or safe move ... Mubarak has ruled out the chance for any peaceful transition and his victims are still falling by the minute.

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