The Egyptian revolution has become a slow-motion train wreck, a cliff notes version of how not to win a revolution, a desperate disappointment, a nightmare. All is not lost, but things are not good.
Until recently, Egypt was a good news/bad news story:
• Liberal democratic protest movement forces change/Can’t coalesce around one moderate candidate representing their values
• Democratic parliament freely elected/Islamists and Salafists victorious
• Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) committed to transfer of power/Supreme Council of the Armed Forces meddles in presidential election
• Free presidential election/Lousy candidates and arbitrary courts
• First round of election/Mubarak retread and Muslim Brotherhood candidates proceed to run off
Then, yesterday, the ominously-known SCAF restored arbitrary powers of arrest: authorizing the military, intelligence agencies, and police to arrest civilians for a wide variety of vague “crimes,” basically a restoration of the Mubarak era emergency laws. Today, the Egyptian court dissolved the elected parliament, arguing it had been seated based on an unconstitutional elections law.
I’ve left out a few other disasters (constitutional committee prime among them), but you get the gist. This is not going well. The SCAF clearly believes the Muslim Brotherhood is on the rise, and that it has the liberal revolutionaries cowed. They may be right, but theirs is not the way forward; rather, it is the way backwards. All that’s missing is to prop the almost dead Mubarak in a pharaoh’s throne and claim this is 2010.
The faults don’t all lie with the SCAF, or the Brotherhood, or the public that isn’t sure what it wants. It also lies with a liberal opposition that knows its values but can’t seem to find either a party or a candidate to express them; the international community, which has made clear that even though Mubarak is gone, gee, they kinda miss him (yes, I mean you Obama White House); and an entrenched Arab leadership in the Gulf that has viewed the changes in Egypt with horror and done everything possible to undermine them.
Still, Egypt must own its revolution. Things cannot go back, they must go forward. It’s up to the Egyptian people to choose how. No one elected the SCAF, and it’s time to get serious about planning the next phase of the post-Mubarak future. Much, much more serious.