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Reining in the rage

Youseef Sidhom | 24 July 2011

I was never used to go along with the current, nor had I ever any qualms about swimming upstream. I thus express my disagreement with not-a-few events involving Chapter 2 of the Revolution: the 8 July “Friday of the revolution first” and the 15 July “Friday of the last warning”. I still share the enthusiasm of the revolutionaries in Tahrir Square and in all other town squares in Egypt, but I feel deeply concerned about the non-discipline, chaos and mob spirit which has come to dominate these squares. I defend the right of the revolutionaries to remain camped in Tahrir—our very own Hyde Park which has become the admiration and inspiration of the whole world—until the transfer to a legitimate civil State is achieved. However, I strongly condemn what Tahrir and the other squares have become in terms of threatening national security and societal and economic stability, and striving to impose the will of the revolutionaries over the legitimacy of the State, judiciary, and rule of law. 

With this in mind, I am among the few who were not taken by surprise by the stern note used by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’s Major General Mohsen al-Fangari as he read the SCAF’s announcement in the wake of the “Friday of the Revolution First”. Contrary to many, I actually felt comfortable with the non-appeasing, non-tolerant response by SCAF to what we may safely describe as the revolutionaries over-stepping the red lines. The SCAF denounced the revolutionaries’ infringement on the domain of the judiciary by proposing particular scenarios for the upcoming trials of figures of the toppled regime and presuming predetermined judgements to indict them and exact vengeance. This surpasses by far the people’s right to have the trials publicised, and places the judiciary under terrible public pressure that severely jeopardises its independence, impartiality and fairness.
During the days between Friday 8 July and Tuesday 12 July, revolutionaries surrounded Cairo’s central government administrative services complex in Tahrir and forbade civil servants and citizens alike from entering. They threatened to block the Cairo underground metro. And, in a scene reminiscent of the Salafi-led civil disobedience in the Upper Egyptian town of Qena last March to protest the appointment of a Coptic governor, demonstrators from Suez blocked the Cairo-Suez highway. Then, in what was an insanely preposterous move, the protestors threatened to attack the Suez Canal and interrupt navigation. Had the revolution taken leave of its senses? At this point, there arose an urgency, not to hold back the revolutionaries, but to defend the revolution against irresponsible irrationality. My first reaction to the SCAF announcement thus was one of comfort. The situation warranted no laxity, calm, or self-restraint.
Now we stand on the threshold of rapid political mobility and change. It is to be hoped such mobility would lead to a correction in the transition path we are currently traversing, and throughout which the revolution, under the heavy burden of change, risks to stumble. It is also to be hoped that the price paid for that change would not be at the expense of the safety and stability of the nation. No matter how much we agree that the recent dismissal of a huge number of security officers was necessary, we must acknowledge that it represents several steps backwards in the process of rebuilding our police force and regaining the lost security on our streets. 
In the same context, the recent Cabinet reshuffle should not be assessed in terms of the personal qualifications of the new ministers. Instead, it should be seen as giving the interim government a chance to get a grip on State administration and the wheels of production and business rolling anew. Without that, there can be none of the longed-for social justice, minimum wage, or new jobs.
We are in dire need to move on to parliamentary elections, a new Constitution, and presidential elections. The roadmap leading that way is bound to capture the interest of Egyptians and engage them positively instead of the anticipation, anxiety, and stand-still that pervades our community and results in the occasional unrest. 
I was among those who called for “Constitution first”, in order to avoid the dominion by any political power, be that religious or otherwise, over the writing of the new Constitution. Especially given that the new political movements on the Egyptian scene may be not much match for the old, well-organised and well-established political forces, meaning that the old forces stand a much better chance at gaining a majority in Parliament and hence, writing the new Constitution. 
The turmoil on the Egyptian street, however, made me wary of what could befall Egypt should more unrest come her way. And simultaneously, the SCAF announced it would declare the governing principles according to which a founding committee for writing the Constitution should be formed. These principles would be published in a constitutional declaration upon the agreement of the various political parties and movements. This move worked to allay my fears of holding parliamentary elections next September before writing the new Constitution.
Egypt urgently needs a referee to order the resumption of the game, stop the fighting between the players, and lead the game to a salubrious end.
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