Egypt: The opposition splits

One side accept SCAF's concessions, the other does not. Is this Paris 1968 all over again?

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) led by Field Marshal Tantawi is viewed by protestors in and around Cairo's Tahrir Square as a militarised version of the Mubarak clique. Youthful demonstators won't withdraw until SCAF stands down and is replaced by an interim civilian government, paving the way to parliamentary and presidential elections. It appears they don't trust SCAF to deliver free and fair elections which would result in a genuinely democratic parliament and presidency. 

Standing aside, uninvolved in these protests, are the main opposition Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition parties. What a turn-up for the books, eh? The Islamists (some moderate, others extreme), proscribed for most of the Mubarak era, have appeared content with SCAF's recent concessionary proclamations and await due process to unfold. Why?

Do the Muslim Brotherhood know something the youthful protestors don't? Has a deal with SCAF been struck in secret? 

What's clear is that genuine political fragmentation has occurred, which should lead in future to the development of significant political parties with natural constituencies. This could be a healthy development. Right now, though, the youthful enthusiasm of the Tahrir rebels is reminscent of the protests in May 1968 which sprung up at the Parisian university campus at Nanterre. Then, as now in Cairo I suspect, the youthful intellectuals, academics and supportive workers, were at loggerheads with the views held generally by the French in the provinces. May 1968 was a significant moment in the presidency of Charles De Gaulle. Just as November 2011 might be a key time in the stewardship of Hussein Tantawi.

De Gaulle understood the history of France, and knew that the conservative countryside would persist in its support for his programme, even if the rebellious elements in Parisian society did not. So, De Gaulle played the long game, calling a nation-wide vote on his policies and taking the wind out of protestors' sails. (The difference perhaps might lie in De Gaulle's threats of resignation and a state of emergency if protestors failed to back down, and Tantawi's departure is what Cairenes demand). Whether Tantawi could replicate this tactic in modern Egypt is uncertain. But what's likely to be true is that the Tahrir protestors don't have national support. They might be trail-blazing in Cairo, and their suspicions could be well-founded. But can they succeed without broad popular approval?

The Tahrir protests, the blood spilt and fatalities suffered, have attracted UN condemnation. But as the international community watches in horror, the Muslim Brotherhood stands idly by biding its time. 

A fascinating dynamic is underway as Egypt shifts up another gear towards democratic legitamacy - if indeed pluralism and freedom is actually possible in this most cultured and crowded of Arab-dominated lands.

Check out all articles here.

No comments:

Post a Comment