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In Egypt, looking forward to the past

A demonstration in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, in December 2018. Credit: The Egyptian Liberal.
A demonstration in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, in December 2018. Credit: The Egyptian Liberal.

Last week, Egypt commemorated the first anniversary of the “Jan. 25 revolution” in Tahrir Square. Those in the Square were seeking a holiday, but two types of faces present at the gathering prevented it from being so: on the one hand, young people smiling, looking forward to the future, and on the other, older people with veiled faces, looking forward to the [Islamic] past. Over everyone, the army continues to look from above (for now), knowing full well that it is in power on borrowed time, because the Muslim Brotherhood has not yet decided otherwise.

From his hospital, or inside the cage from which he overlooks his trial, deposed President Hosni Mubarak sees the new Egypt born after the revolution—a revolution that gave rise to winners and losers–and how the initial heroes of the revolution have become the losers.

The Tahrir youth, hundreds of national heroes who sacrificed their lives to bring down Mubarak’s regime, could not have imagined that their efforts would hand the state over on a silver platter, without intention and with such speed, to a third party who did very little during the 18 days of the revolution.

On Wednesday in the square, we still saw those young liberals demanding the continuation of the struggle and the perpetuation of the revolution. For them, it has not really ended. They did not want Mubarak, but they also do not want the military to be in power. But the Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi continues to hold the reins of power, and in addition, they also got the Muslim Brotherhood’s control of the new parliament.

This is a nightmare for the Tahrir youth. They sought to overthrow Mubarak, but they did not imagine their revolution generating the nearly impossible coalition of the army and the Muslim Brotherhood. Yesterday’s enemies, the Brotherhood and the army, have turned into today’s allies. There is certainly no love lost between them, but there are plenty of mutual interests.

Thanks to the revolution, and the young people who started it, the word democracy has become fashionable, even if in practice everyone knows that there is no democracy at all, but maybe just a little more freedom. It is true that Egypt has experienced its first democratic elections since 1952, and this led to a parliament with an overwhelming 72 percent Muslim majority. One quarter of it is Salafi. Who would have thought? The elections gave less than 1.5 percent, just seven seats, to the representatives of the democratic youth.

Now the Brotherhood has the moral authority to govern. They have received the people’s trust.

The army, in turn, will continue to aspire to appoint the defense minister in the next government, enjoying secret budgets and, principally, economic privileges.

Now Egypt is awaiting a new constitution and a president, to be elected in the summer. Both the constitution and the president will adapt themselves to the new Islamic reality. Following the Tahrir revolution, there are not many other options.

Editor’s note: This column is distributed with the permission of Israel Hayom, where it first appeared.

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