Egypt: Blood and determination as the people assemble

The army has to cave in or crack down.

Back on the streets of Cairo and in Tahrir Square, no obvious leader around whom to coalesce and with whom the miltary can negotiate. It must now be apparent how naiive we, and they, were - not to have twigged that the removal of Mubarak would only lay bare the structure of the militarised state. But the calls now for the people to swarm in support of cries for democracy come only hours after the purportedly puppet cabinet tendered its resignation. The army has nowhere to go but back into barracks or forward into marshal law.

The next hours and days are critical. Not given to defeat, the forces paramount in Egypt since the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952 will be retiscent to permit freedom now. Yet they must if they wish to gain the respect of the world, keep the international commmunity on side and dampen the ardour of a thoroughly frustrated population.

As the mass march takes place, what steps will the military take? The military confront a wall of youths, Islamists and liberals whose sheer weight of numbers might persuade them of the need to talk. But if a power vacuum results, what happens next? Democracy, of course, we all shriek. 

Easier said than done in a land of some eighty one million people squeezed into a liveable space not much larger than Switzerland. The economy is on the rocks, jobs are scarce and there's no democratic tradition.

At least winter's approaching and the searing heat has subsided. Tempers haven't cooled yet, but maybe minds can function more effectively as temperatures reduce.

The Muslim Brotherhood have a leadership team in place, and other politicians like former International Atomic Energy Authority head Mohamed elBaradeh, and Arab League secretary general Amr Mohammed Moussa, came to the fore earlier this year. Yet none have yet seemed to capture the imaginations of the majority. That's the biggest concern. 

Then there's the issue of inter-relgious tension: who would protect the Copts if the extremists took hold? There is a continued role for the army, but it doesn't include autocracy.

Time will be needed to enable political groups to organise and market their strategies. I guess that if the people can see progress is underway they'll return home or to work. Otherwise, expect this to escalate.

Update 23 November 2011: 

Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who leads the military and is the effective head of state at present, has assured everyone of the military's commitment to democracy.  (1) Parliamentary elections will be held next month, (2) scheduled presidential elections will be brought forward, (3) he has accepted the resignations of the members of the interim government, according to the BBC.  

It appears key demands of protestors are being met. There will be others, but it seems as though Egypt is making progress.

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