The past five days have seen a surge of anti-government protests eerily similar to the ones that ousted Hosni Mubarak from Egypt's leadership nine months ago. With the military in power and parliamentary elections scheduled for November 28, Egyptians of all ages have poured back into Tahrir Square in Cairo, the epicenter of the protests that ousted Mubarak.
Although protests have been more or less ongoing since the military declared itself the interim government, they have expanded exponentially in the past few days, partly due to the activity of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which is expected to win the plurality of seats in parliament. The Brotherhood, a non-violent Islamist organization, was criticized by al-Qaeda for supporting democracy and banned by the Mubarak regime. (Although they are running several female candidates for parliament, they oppose the election of Christian Copts or women to the presidency). Although they began by protesting the increasing powers of the military, in the past couple days the MB leadership has been unclear about their position on the protests, especially as they drew increasing violence from the military. In response to the crackdown, the Brotherhood struck some deals with the military government, including a promise for a presidential election by June 2012, that were rejected by the protesters in Tahrir Square.
But almost every other political party and organization, whether conservative, socialist, Islamist, or liberal, has been encouraging the protests and urging their supporters to combat the military's continued presence. The entire cabinet of the transitional government offered to resign Monday in response to the protests, but the crackdown on the protests continued, and the protesters themselves were not satisfied.
Many protesters feel that until the military relegates all power to parliament, the elections will be largely meaningless, and the government will continue to devolve into a junta instead of the democracy many envisioned. This time around, the protesters seem just as determined to stay in Tahrir Square until their mission is fulfilled, staying put through escalating violence: As of Wednesday, almost 40 people had been killed and over 1,500 injured, according to the Health Ministry.
Although many political parties offered their support and apologies for not being involved earlier in the protests, they also acknowledge that the violence in Cairo is likely to delay the parliamentary elections further (they had already been postponed from September), an outcome that the Muslim Brotherhood is determinedly fighting against (as it would potentially harm the electoral chances of their “Freedom and Justice Party”).
Many outsiders are concerned that the current state of affairs will degenerate even further to become like Syria or Bahrain, where people were killed by security forces indiscriminately, or that Egypt will become stuck in a steady state of violent protest with no progress. For now, as the fate of the elections remain uncertain, the only thing clear is the determination of the Egyptian people in achieving the government they envisioned.
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