"In all the joy of the moment—the type of joy we see so rarely these days in the news—in all the electrifying coverage, and congratulations in the capitals of the West that stood by Mubarak for decades, there is still vast uncertainty.In today's Independent newspaper Robert Fisk asks some very good questions in his latest piece Is the Army tightening its grip on Egypt .
The Egyptian military, now nominally in charge, has no culture of democracy much less any history of fostering real change. Funded with support from abroad, it is subject to influences from all its many new found friends of “democracy,” especially its patrons in Washington"
Two days after millions of Egyptians won their revolution against the regime of Hosni Mubarak, the country's army – led by Mubarak's lifelong friend, General Mohamed el-Tantawi – further consolidated its power over Egypt yesterday, dissolving parliament and suspending the constitution. As they did so, the prime minister appointed by Mubarak, ex-General Ahmed Shafiq, told Egyptians that his first priorities were "peace and security" to prevent "chaos and disorder" – the very slogan uttered so often by the despised ex-president. Plus ça change?Similarly, Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein expresses concern that key demands for social and economic justice freedom and democracy made by the protesters in Egypt may be sacrificed by the army and the authorities in the name of a smooth transition. Citing experience from other countries Klein writes:
In their desperation to honour the 'military council's' promise of Cairo-back-to-normal, hundreds of Egyptian troops – many unarmed – appeared in Tahrir Square to urge the remaining protesters to leave the encampment they had occupied for 20 days. At first the crowd greeted them as friends, offering them food and water. Military policemen in red berets, again without weapons, emerged to control traffic. But then a young officer began lashing demonstrators with a cane – old habits die hard in young men wearing uniforms – and for a moment there was a miniature replay of the fury visited upon the state security police here on 28 January.
It reflected a growing concern among those who overthrew Mubarak that the fruits of their victory may be gobbled up by an army largely composed of generals who achieved their power and privilege under Mubarak himself. No-one objects to the dissolution of parliament since Mubarak's assembly elections last year – and all other years -- were so transparently fraudulent. But the 'military council' gave no indication of the date for the free and fair elections which Egyptians believed they had been promised.
As earlier pro-democracy movements have learned the hard way, much can be lost in the key months and years of transition from one regime to another.