The trouble in Tahrir had its roots earlier last week, when, after much humming and hawing, the military government finally announced how a new constitution would be created. Do whatever you want, they told Egypt’s revolutionaries. Except for these small, insignificant conditions. Nothing to fuss about. But the revolutionaries, of all stripes, were most certainly fussed. With reason. By SIMON ALLISON.
The concessions demanded by the interim military government were anything but insignificant, in effect creating a separate military arm of the state, not unlike the Turkish arrangement.
First, the military declared that its budget should not be subject to any form of civilian oversight. This is no small change, especially since they’re still getting $1.5 billion every year from the US. Second, the military should not take orders from civilians, but from a “national security council” to be composed equally of elected officials and unelected military representatives. And finally, a substantial portion of the 100-member constitution-drafting commission should be appointed by the military.
Predictably, Egypt’s revolutionaries reacted furiously, staging a relatively small, but vociferous protest in – where else? – Tahrir Square in Cairo on Saturday, as well one in Alexandria. But this time, unused to being the target, the military reacted. Instead of their usual approach, which is just to ignore the protests until they die down and then arrest the troublemakers, they went in with guns blazing, shooting tear gas and rubber bullets, killing at least two protesters. News of the attack travelled swiftly through social networks, and the small protest became a huge protest, with hundreds of thousands packing out Tahrir Square. These continued into Sunday, and at least three more protesters have been killed and hundreds injured.
Notably, the protests were led by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s moderate Islamist party which has taken a non-confrontational approach to the military government. This has now changed, and – as police continue to try to evict the diehards from Tahrir Square – their huge political influence might just force the military government into looking out for something other than their own backsides. DM