Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi, this November, granted himself new sweeping administrative and political powers, as a “temporary measure” to ‘safeguard the interests’ of the Tahrir Square protests of January 2011. He today congratulated Egyptians for their ‘endorsement’ of the new constitution which he hurriedly pushed through parliament.
This is much too conspicuously similar to the conduct of another President who granted himself sweeping powers to “safeguard the interests” of protesters who he seemed to notice when it seemed politically suitable. Khomeini, it is sometimes claimed, hijacked the popular and sincere groundswell of anti-regime protest, Iran’s Green revolution against Reza Pahlavi Shah in the 70’s, enabling himself to speak on its behalf.
The Muslim Brotherhood, and its supporters claim that their success in the Egyptian revolution proves democracy in practice: namely, that they fairly won the Egyptian vote with a majority of around 60%. However, these have failed to note the inconsistent political ethos, the corrupt and coercive tactics and the entrenched socio-economic powers of the Brotherhood, prior to and throughout the election process. Provide a man bread, and he will give you your vote, threaten him, and the same may take place. This isn’t unexpected, it is the way to power.
You cannot come to the front after the war, or claim active citizenship and a concern for the people, only when the situation is convenient to you. This has been the Brotherhood’s way, and the way of many of the Egyptian media channels who celebrate the ‘heroic young people’ of the protests in cheesy soap operas, though they once called them silly young eccentrics.
Mark Pearson puts this succinctly in his “connected in Cairo”, where he describes Tahrir Square as a media symbol…“The power to claim this symbol will be contested between state and private actors across multiple media”
Tahrir has become a symbol, and with a constitution that seems to marginalise the interests of women, and minority groups including Coptic Christians, Mursi’s moves seem to make the political process today increasingly apathetic toward its key players, young people who fought, not for a mere ‘tolerance’ of their presence, but for real social equality.
The role of the military and the power of Tahrir are two factors that may need to be watched closely.
Read up, if you’re interested, here,