Prospect For Democracy In Egypt Is Dim

A few weeks ago, Tahrir Square was engulfed in violent clashes. What many in Cairo were calling the "revolution 2.0" seemed inevitable. 

After a summer of unease and revolutionary languor, protesters were once again out in force, intent on toppling another element of Egypt's old guard. Chants of "down with SCAF" and "an end to military rule" rang out through the square as revolutionaries battled the army and security forces in the side streets.

By the end of the week, 42 protesters were dead and over 1,000 injured in what was the worst violence in Egypt since the initial uprising in January. Then, just as suddenly as it had started, the fighting ended (although there were still a few skirmishes). A nervous truce was implemented and the nation's attention turned to the first round of voting in the country's ongoing parliamentary elections.

The vote is a historic and significant step for an eventual democracy and one that many Egyptians never thought possible in their lifetimes. 

Given the timing, it also may serve as a dangerous distraction.

Unlike Tunisia and Libya where the end of the Ben Ali and Gaddafi meant a total end of their regimes, for many, the revolution in Egypt remains incomplete. President Hosni Mubarak may have been deposed, but so long as the military is still in power, the prospect for true representative government is dim.

Military rule is still an inimical outcome, as the military has always maintained the ultimate authority. It was, after all, the same Supreme Council for Allied Forces that groomed Mubarak and assented to him being the caretaker of their power. Thus, in the minds of many protesters, little has changed. 

Judging by SCAF's recent actions, the demonstrators' misgivings appear substantiated. The hated "emergency rule" law under Mubarak that the SCAF promised to abolish has been reinstated, human rights groups estimate between as many as 10,000 and 12,000 civilians have been subjected to military tribunals, prominent NGOs and human rights groups have been forcibly shut down and SCAF has doggedly sought to silence and intimidate journalists and bloggers. 

In short, the military since Mubarak's departure has not been the "hand in hand" and "one with the people" image they have tried desperately to propagate.

Rather, a valid argument could be made that the military has ruled with a more authoritarian hand than ever before. 

As numerous friends and families of arrested activists have recounted, the military seems surprisingly open about their intention to "terrorize the nation back into submission."

Which is why the elections are taking place at unfortunate time. It is hard to discount the impact or greater importance of Egyptians participating in the first free and fair vote in more than a century, but these elections have - temporarily at least - slowed the momentum of the rising tide of anger against the military rule and perhaps, even more damaging, inadvertently validated the very group whose rule with dilute and at times negate the the very parliament that is being decided upon.

By going ahead with the elections and so far managing to protect the people and the voting stations, the army has won support, albeit rightfully so, during a moment when the revolution 2.0 was needed instead.

This is not to say that the SCAF should be overthrown. The army very well may be the only organization capable of ensuring stability in a tumultuous period but rather another major show of opposition to Egypt's entrenched ruling class is needed to ensure greater accountability and an end to the violations of power synonymous under Mubarak. 

Now that elections have commenced people seem distracted by the excitement of the process. One which incidentally has allowed the SCAF to take credit, regroup, and only further their grip on power. 

A revolution 2.0 is still needed. 

Photo Credit: David Dietz