Egyptians have returned to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and other cities, in the kind of sustained numbers that eventually toppled Hosni Mubarak. This time their target is the military government which replaced him, and they’ve found that the revolutionary fervour is just as effective this time round. By SIMON ALLISON.
Egypt’s interim military government is backpedalling furiously. At the first sign of serious protest against their rule, they responded in force; the kind of force that Amnesty International described as eerily reminiscent of Mubarak’s tactics. At least 22 people were killed, and over 1,000 injured over the course of Saturday and Sunday. But the protestors are still in Tahrir, and in other cities across Egypt, and their numbers have only swelled in response to the crackdown.
Now the military have suddenly realised – the same way that Mubarak eventually realised – that these protests aren’t just serious: they’re revolutionary. And if the military is to have any chance of holding onto its power in Egypt’s new constitutional dispensation, they’d better start making some compromises. Quickly.
On Tuesday evening, those compromises materialised. Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military body governing Egypt, told Egyptians on state TV that presidential elections would be hastened, and would happen by July 2012. He said that a referendum on an immediate transfer of power could be organised if necessary, and that Monday’s parliamentary elections would go ahead. Later, he also accepted the resignation of his entire cabinet, with no word on what or who will replace it.
But it might just be too little to late for Tantawi and his generals. Egyptians accepted the promises of the military last time round, choosing to trust in them to oversee the transition between dictatorship and democracy. That trust is now gone and, if the bold words of the revolutionaries in Tahrir who have rejected the military compromises are anything to go by, the military’s authority with it. DM
"Take a chance, won't you? Knock down the fences which divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison you. Reach out. Freedom lies just on the other side." ~ Thurgood Marshall