Cracks in Egypt's Leaderless Revolution

Americans had George Washington. India had Gandhi. South Africans had Nelson Mandela. And Egyptians? They have themselves. What made the Egyptian revolution so unique and powerful was its impromptu nature, the fact that everyone rallied together without a true leader for guidance. The Egyptian government couldn’t stop the revolution because there were too many people to silence. The Muslim Brotherhood, the supposed enemy of the state, hardly participated. It was — with a little help from technology — people power in its purest form.

But, five months later, Egyptians are suddenly realizing the pitfalls of a leaderless revolution. There was no better example of the movement without a rudder than this past Friday, when tens of thousands took to Tahrir Square in a “Day of Rage.” Walking around Tahrir, it seems as though the revolution is now being fueled by a vast sense of anger and outrage with a myriad of organizations and people. Protestors were unified in their anger against the police and increasing hostility towards the military.

But will this anger last?

Cracks are beginning to show. Although everyone was unified in his/her call for a "better future for Egypt," each person and group seemed to have a different opinion as to how to build a new country. Different stages were set up throughout the square with different organizers voicing different concerns. Spontaneous shouts against the former Mubarak regime or the current military council came and went, but none stuck. None were able to carry the crowd. In one corner of Tahrir was a group of Coptic Christians demanding better treatment while on the opposite side was a small pro-Nasser rally.

Ahmed Mansoor, a protester and supporter of the April 6 youth movement believed helping the poor and social justice were the keys to “improving Egypt by starting from the ground up.” Fatemah Farid, a fellow protester and a mother of two, asserted that, “my children won’t be free until all of Mubarak’s government is in jail.”

The Brotherhood’s presence was also strong and one of their members who only gave his first name, Mohamed, said that “God was the way.” Many more secular and liberal Egyptians fear the role of the Brotherhood in upcoming elections.

Several demonstrations declared that Mohamed Tantawi, the interim head of the Supreme Council of Military Affairs should resign for the military’s role in recent violent scuffles. Numerous others disagreed and believed that Tantawi should be given time to restore order. As one Egyptian commented, “I felt safer in Mubarak’s Egypt than I do now. We [Egypt] need to restore order and the military is the only way to do that.”

Without one unified voice and clear direction, the revolution faces the threat of crumbling under the weight of dissension. A diverse political landscape with liberals, Islamists, socialists, those who support the military, Nasserists, and everything in between, the protests are currently held together by a notion of dissatisfaction. So far no candidate has emerged to condense the frustrations and voices of Egypt’s diverse populace into one clear message and approach.

The presidential elections offer an institutionalized opportunity to do so, but even elections are a cause for bitter divergence with liberals and the youth claiming that they should be postponed while the military council and the Brotherhood attempt to keep elections on schedule for early September.

Unless the people can agree on a few core root problems to tackle first as well as how best to approach them, there is concern that the revolution will not be able to sustain itself. A country famous for its iconic rulers suddenly has found itself leaderless.

At the moment anger is still a powerful glue. The fear is that time is weakening its unifying bonds.

Photo Credit: RamyRaoof