It seems like the world was extremely boring last year, and made a new year’s resolution to be more exciting and unpredictable. 2011 has been absolutely chaotic! From the Egyptian perspective, the year started off on a bad note, with a church bombing on the 1st of January. Gov’t blamed it on al-Qaeda (we later found out that it was probably the government responsible – #fail), and the event created even more sectarian tension.
The Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia managed to oust Ben Ali, as well as inspire Egyptians to take to the streets. The revolution began on the 25th of January, and lasted 18 days. On the 11th of Feb, Mubarak stepped down.
As amazing, inspirational and just straight up fabulous the revolution was, there is still lots and lots of work to be done. 30+ years (60, really) of corruption, dictatorship, economic issues (due to global neo-liberal restructuring) and just a decline in everything, it is going to take a while to rebuild the country.
There was a referendum this past Saturday to vote on the constitutional amendments.
The proposed changes shorten the presidential term and create a two-term limit, significantly expand the pool of eligible presidential candidates, restore judicial supervision of elections, pave the way for a new constitution after elections, and restrict the ability to declare and renew a state of emergency.
As expected, the majority of voters (77%) votes yes. The turnout was about 41%. At first I was disappointed – estimates from Saturday were between 60-70% but I realize now that 41% is still good. After all, it was a referendum and Egyptians haven’t been voting for a while. Following the results, a brilliant post was written by Sandmonkey (find entire post here). Here are some important points:
- 65 million who never joined the protests from the beginning, and who probably miss the stability and security of the old regime.
- Cairo is not Egypt. There was no real TV campaign, no real grassroots campaign and no actual debate.
- Remember all the millions that went down for the minimum wage and you completely swept this under the rug to engage in a battle with State Security and the military?
- This is the part where we stop playing revolution, and start playing politics for the sake of the country.
- You have to focus on the people & their issues, and push yours aside for now: Yes, you will have to address the economy. Yes, you will have to offer constructive solutions to the Police problem that isn;t simply “clean them up”. Yes, you will have to lay off the military criticism and, as horrible and hard as this might be, to put the issue of those who are detained, jailed, tortured or beaten by the military on the back-burner for now.
- START SELLING THE MINIMUM WAGE.
- Start organizing at the grassroots.
- Start the propaganda campaign.
- Well, moral clarity time: The NDP and the Islamists are two faces to the same coin, and neither can be allowed to control this country ever again. It’s time to quit being distracted, and start organizing and engaging people NOW. War has been declared on all of us, and we will be damned if we lose now. Just like the NDP, we will fight them until we can’t.And in case you are wondering: We will win!
The whole post is pure brilliance so I would recommend everyone read the entire thing as well.
There are lots of questions I have about the whole situation right now.
- Why do so many Egyptians trust the army? The army is a major power in Egypt (if not THE major power), and there is no proof that it is doing what is “best” for the Egyptians. Stories of torture by the army in the past 2 weeks are coming up, they’ve recently banned protests (uhm, what?) and it doesn’t really look like they’re sticking to their original timeline re. parliamentary and presidential elections. This is not to say that they’re with the old regime (although lots of incest between the 2 I’m sure) but they’re probably not with the people either. Better to be critical than to just blindly follow/trust/praise.
- How popular was this revolution? How many Egyptians really supported it? During the revolution it seemed like the ENTIRE country was behind it, but now I’m starting to wonder how many people really wanted things to change like this.
- How powerful is people power? I think we are trained to believe that people have no power and that we should be skeptical of change. I find myself now questioning whether anything has really changed and whether the old regime is really gone. It’s almost like state institutions have too much power to be really changed by the people (moreover by people who aren’t that organized).
- My final question is: is it up to Egyptians to be a democracy or not? Or are other players going to make the decision? The west (especially Israel) have a lot to lose, and so do other Arab dictatorships. I remember during the revolution itself there was a phase where all people were talking about was how this revolution would affect Israel – because the rights of Israelis come before Egyptians. I wonder whether that has really changed. The army is basically funded by America, who is Israel’s abused mistress, so are we really expecting things to change? Most Egyptians are pro-Palestinian so if there is democracy in Egypt, what would happen to politicians who support Israel?
On the one hand I’m really excited, proud and still in shock about what happened in Egypt. On the other hand, I’m so used to thinking that the state is all-powerful and invincible that I’m starting to doubt whether the foundations were really shook during this revolution, or whether it only touched the surface.