Back to Business In Egypt, Part 3

The battle between optimism and pessimism wages

So what does the future of Egypt hold? My first thoughts were positive (democracy) then I slowly soured to negative (Mubarak under a different name). I was then given a small bit of hope by Adam Shatz then immediately brought back down by Stacher and Shawkat (both via the Arabist). It is quite clear that the Mubarak system (though perhaps not Mubarak himself) escaped this uprising; what is unclear is what will fill the void left by the fallen. Presumably, it will be a cleaned up version of Mubarak under vice president Suleiman or someone from the Mubarak fan club that has long served everyone, but Egypt. Shatz questions whether the Egyptian people will accept the same government with a nice face lift, Stacher and Shawkat say the protesters are out for the count.

From Stacher:

Despite the tenacity, optimism, and blood of the protesters massed in Tahrir Square, Egypt’s democratic window has probably already closed.

Contrary to the dominant media narrative, the Egyptian state did not experience a regime breakdown. The protests certainly rocked the system and had Mubarak on his heels, but at no time did the uprising seriously threaten Egypt’s regime. Although many of the protesters, foreign governments, and analysts have concentrated on the personality of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, those surrounding the embattled president, who make up the wider Egyptian regime, made sure the state’s viability was never in question. This is because the country’s central institution, the military, which historically has influenced policy and commands near-monopolistic economic interests, never balked.

And from Shawkat:

Mubarak is now out of the picture, perhaps by orders of his vice president. He is not going to be part of the future of this country. He will either leave Egypt in an “honourable” way, or just be pushed to the back to sign papers and rolled out on occasion to repeat a few well-rehearsed phrases. Mubarak is no more. His son is no more. His party is no more. But the spirit of his rule, the essence of his regime, and the methods of his era are far from over.

It is dangerous to kill a ruling party, because like the hydra of lore, ruling parties have many heads, far-reaching tentacles, and very deep pockets. I know the army has denounced any connection with the pro-Mubarak marauders, but the repudiation is far from being completely sincere. Only yesterday I walked by a security truck near the Italian Club in Bulak, north of Tahrir Square. Inside it, a plainclothes official was organising a small mob to attack or harass a certain person. I heard the order given while I was passing by, so I looked at the license plates. Sure enough, they were army plates.

For the past few days, the army was accusing unnamed people of wearing its uniforms to spread chaos. Perhaps this was a stolen army vehicle. But then again, perhaps it wasn’t.

Like Issandr El Amrani (aka the Arabist) I am not quite as pessimistic as these guys. I am sure that the persistence of the demonstrators and the magnitude of the demonstrations have created a Rubicon situation in which there will inevitably be some changes. Yet the changes that are made will not be rooted deep enough to make significant improvements in the lives of Egyptians. Rather they will be designed to appease rather than revolutionize.

Photo from Joe College

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