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Egypt Protests Continue: What Does This Mean for the Arab Spring?

Posted on the 24 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Egypt protests continue: What does this mean for the Arab Spring?

Protests continue in Tahrir Square. Photocredit:

At least 38 people have been killed in Cairo. Hundreds have been hurt, and many arrested. Unrest continues into its sixth day as protesters clash with police. This comes days before the first elections since President Hosni Mubarak was deposed. The protesters are angry that the military are still in charge, and have rejected a promise to speed up transition to civilian rule, with elections brought forward to next summer; but the protesters are planning to continue  till the military steps down. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has apologised for the deaths.

Commentators see the continued protests either as a force for good; or as a way of getting the Muslim Brotherhood into government faster.

Fight for real democracy. This was not why 100,000 Egyptians risked their lives in Tahrir Square last winter, said the NY Times editorial. The military have been busily suppressing democratic change, instead of helping it, promising an elected president only in 2013. America’s interest in a stable Egypt is obvious, and it must press the military – which, after all, receives aid from the US – much harder. Free, fair voting is not asuured, but it should still go ahead; the army must be aware that there’ll be a price to pay for a corrupt or highjacked outcome. The Muslim Brotherhood, by far Egypt’s best organised movement, has tried to cut a deal with the military – which has caused anger. The people of Egypt “want real democracy. They are entitled to nothing less.”

Is that such a good idea? But it’s between “the devil and the deep blue sea”, said Melanie Phillips in The Daily Mail. The Muslim Brotherhood are a terrible alternative – though the military discourages dissent, the Brotherhood discourages freedom. The alternatives, she said somewhat ominously, are “a bad outcome that is disastrous for the west, and a bad outcome that maintains a fragile equilibrium for the west.” The “brutal fact” is that if the army leave, then the Islamists will take control – and that will mean an end to human rights in Egypt, and a “whole new ballgame of threat for the west.”

Still cause for hope. We should be pleased, though, said Seumas Milne in The Guardian, that the “revolutionary wave” has broken out again in Egypt. The generals, protecting their own vast commercial interests, had suppressed the popular movement: but now they’ve been made to give “serious concessions”, and might still be “brought down.” The West, in tandem with autocratic states like Qatar, seems to be doing all it can to stop uprisings. It’s all very murky, but what is clear is that the upheavals are all “connected, and that sectarianism and foreign intervention are enemies” of the revolutions. Authoritarian regimes continue because western powers support them, desperate to keep “strategic control”, whereas a democratic Middle East would be “more independent.” This is why what’s happening in Egypt should help ignite the rest of the region – and “strike a blow against the hydra-headed attempts to stifle” the Arab Spring’s renaissance.

Bring on the elections. Yes, agreed Adrian Hamilton in The Independent, let’s not be pessimistic about the Arab Spring. It’s almost as if we want to be “reassured in the view that the Arabs are hopeless”. Tunisia’s example – whilst not exactly “rosy” – is still worth remembering. It would suggest “not to delay” in bringing forward elections. If change is wanted, then you need “early elections, however flawed.”

More on the Arab Spring

  • Tahrir Square reoccupied
  • Tahrir Square all over again
  • Will Assad go the same way as Gaddafi?
  • Arab Spring: Moderate Islamist An-Nahda party claim victory in Tunisia’s first democratic election
  • Gaddafi is dead – who’s next?
  • Asma al-Assad’s greatest hits
  • Violence erupts in Cairo

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