Free Markets, Free People
Arab "Spring”? Or Arab Fall?
Last week I pointed out how Tunisia is starting the seemingly inevitable slide toward Islamic extremism.
Egypt too has failed to keep the promise of the “Arab Spring” uprising that saw Hosni Mubarak ousted from power. There the Muslim Brotherhood has gained power and the Army seems intent on keeping power – at least in the short term. We now are seeing deadly riots again in Tahrir Square in Cairo where the Army is clashing with protesters. Thus far it is reported that 35 are dead in the three days of those clashes.
The eruption of violence, which began Saturday, reflects the frustration and confusion that has mired Egypt’s revolution since Mubarak fell in February and the military stepped into power.
It comes only a week before Egypt is to begin the first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections, which many have hoped would be a significant landmark in a transition to democracy. Instead, it has been clouded by anger at the military’s top body, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which will continue to rule as head of state even after the vote. Activists accuse the generals of acting increasingly in the same autocratic way as Mubarak’s regime and seeking to cling to power.
The military says it will only hand over power after presidential elections, which it has vaguely said will be held in late 2012 or early 2013. The protesters are demanding an immediate move to civilian rule.
Again, in a country which has no democratic traditions or institutions the “hope” is the parliamentary elections will be “a significant landmark in the transition to democracy” has no foundation in reality. Right now it appears that the Egyptian people have simply exchanged on boss for another. And the result of the parliamentary elections, if they’re ever held, may see the ushering in of a third “boss”- the Muslim Brotherhood which has not really promised “secular democracy” if they take the majority in the Egyptian Parliament. Instead it seems clear they intend a steady move toward an Islamic state.
And the traditions of the Islamic state are to pay lip service to “democracy” (see Iran), no secularism (in fact one of the only secular Arab states, Syria, is in deep trouble right now – any guess what may replace that government?) and rule by Islamic law.
I don’t think that the “spring” most of the initial protesters (and their supporters in the West) were hoping for when they turned out to oppose Mubarak and call for secular democracy.
As usual, it is the most organized and ruthless who will claim power. Right now that’s the Army. If and when an election is held and the Muslim Brotherhood takes enough seats to form a government it is likely the Army will reach an agreement with them to somehow share power. And secular democracy?
No time soon in Egypt, count on it. And watch Libya carefully as well.