On eve of elections, Egypt’s revolutionary momentum is gone (WASHINGTON POST) By Leila Fadel CAIRO, EGYPT 06/15/12)
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CAIRO — On Friday, Tahrir Square stood relatively empty, sapped of
the spirit and optimism of the 2011 revolution that made it possible
for Egyptians to choose their own president for the first time in
Only a few bedraggled demonstrators turned out to protest the latest
turn in Egypt’s turbulent journey — the court-ordered dissolution of
parliament. Honking cars inched past symbolic tombs honoring
protesters slain by security forces. With presidential balloting to
begin Saturday, people on the sweltering streets looked fatigue and
Even Friday’s shuttering of the Islamist-dominated parliament by
Egypt’s ruling military generals, who were carrying out the court
ruling, did not stir much in the way of condemnation. Many of those
who fought hardest for the toppling of Hosni Mubarak now appear
resigned to see the old guard come back to power.
“The revolution is dead,’’ said Omnia Nabil, 24, holding an Egyptian
flag among protesters in the square outnumbered by vendors peddling
revolutionary paraphernalia. Still, she added: “I will vote for the
devil before I vote for the Muslim Brotherhood.’’
The final-round choice that Egyptians now face — between the
Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, a conservative Islamist, and Ahmed
Shafiq, a former air force commander — would have seemed unimaginable
a year ago to the revolutionaries who turned the square into a
breeding ground of hope and freedom.
The Islamists were the ones who emerged victorious in parliamentary
elections earlier this year, but this week’s court decisions
invalidated that outcome. On Friday, the generals dispatched security
forces to surround the building and ordered that legislators be
barred from entering, according to the Web site of the state-run Al
Ahram newspaper. The military council itself made no official
announcement of its actions.
In a statement, the Brotherhood warned that the gains of last year’s
revolution could be “wiped out” by the Supreme Court rulings, which
it sees as aimed at blocking its political ascent. The organization
warned that Egypt appeared headed into “very difficult days that
might be more dangerous than the last days of Mubarak’s rule.”
Other activists called for a protest march against what they called
a “soft military coup.” Many in Egypt still fear that mass
demonstrations could come in the wake of the elections, particularly
if Shafiq is elected.
But on Friday, the public mood reflected more weariness than passion
after a post-revolutionary run that has divided the liberals,
leftists and Islamists who in early 2011 stood together on the front
lines in street fights against riot police.
In interviews, voters such as Nabil said that while Shafiq, Mubarak’s
last appointed prime minister, may be a military crony, they see him
as more palatable than Morsi, whose once-repressed Brotherhood has
been criticized by secularists for riding the revolution to power.
Mohamed Abu Hamed Shaheen, a revolutionary turned politician, feels
the same way — even though he lost his seat in parliament with
Friday’s dissolution. He said he was happy with the court’s decision
because the Islamist-dominated body did not represent all Egyptians.
During the turmoil of 2011, Shaheen spent every night in Tahrir
Square, and he didn’t shower for days. He was pelted with stones the
day men on camels and horses led a crowd of pro-Mubarak thugs into
Now, none of the dreams he harbored 16 months ago have come to
fruition, he said. There is no constitution, parliament is dissolved
and the president will either be from the Brotherhood or the old
But when the elections begin on Saturday, he said, he will vote for
Shafiq, because Islamists cannot be trusted to make good on the
demands of the revolution. “If they win, this will be Pakistan,
Afghanistan or Iran,” he said.
He acknowledged that some of his fellow revolutionaries call him a
traitor for supporting Shafiq, instead of boycotting the process as
illegitimate or voting for Morsi. He said revolutionaries had made
mistakes in their dealings with military rulers because they proved
unable to speak with one voice.
But he blamed some of those setbacks on the Brotherhood, which used
its political savvy and prodigious organization to become the primary
opposition group negotiating with the military. “They are the reason
we are where we are,’’ he said.
Staff writer Ernesto Londoño and special correspondent Haitham
Mohamed contributed to this report from Cairo. (© 2010 The Washington
Post Company 06/15/12)
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