Egypt revolution 2.0: Amid flagging support for strikes, protesters turn to politics
Many of the protesters' demands remain unmet. Egyptians disagree whether it's better to focus efforts on protests or politics.
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“I personally think that we are still fighting the same fight that we were two months ago. We're still defending human dignity, and trying to defend our right to protest in the first place,” she says. “People are being arrested and tortured, and sit-ins are being ended by the Army using electric prods. … I think that we have to be fighting on all levels at the same time, but that we can't give up the streets.”Skip to next paragraph
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Yet the Army appears to have decided that the time for protests is over. Officers violently removed the remaining demonstrators from Tahrir Square on March 9, beating and humiliating many of them in the nearby Egyptian museum. Female protesters who were detained say they were subjected to forced “virginity checks” and threatened with being charged as prostitutes. Others have been detained since, and Wednesday soldiers forcibly dispersed a student sit-in at Cairo University, where communications students were demanding the ouster of the dean, who has ties to ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
Flagging support for protests
While these actions felt like a slap in the face to the revolutionaries, they failed to rouse anger in some Egyptians who supported the revolution but now want to see a quick transition back to normalcy. On radio stations this week, callers supported the law criminalizing protests and strikes, speaking of a desire to allow Egypt’s economy to get back on its feet, and urging citizens to give the new government a chance to show results.
Flagging public support for protests is part of the reason why some say the revolutionary battlefield should be moved from Tahrir Square to parliamentary districts. “This is the part where we stop playing revolution, and start playing politics for the sake of the country,” Egyptian blogger Mahmoud Salem argued on his blog Rantings of a Sandmonkey this week. “This means caring more about perception and public support over righteous and legitimate demands.”
For the secular youth who played a key part in the uprising, the need to win public support was hammered home by the results of last week’s referendum on constitutional amendments. Many, though not all, of the revolutionaries opposed it, arguing the swift timetable it imposed for holding new elections allowed little time for new parties to organize, leaving the remnants of the former ruling National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood with the advantage. Both movements have deep, nation-wide organizational structures already in place, and supported the amendments.
The referendum passed with 77 percent of the vote.
With parliamentary elections now planned for September, new parties are springing up and sprinting into action to organize a national following, including the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, a collection of liberals and leftists who believe in a civic state, a code word in Egypt for secular. They are so far optimistic. They sent 500 invitations to the party’s first conference, expecting about 300 to show up, and were overwhelmed when more than 1,000 people came.
Still, they face a difficult road building support in the face of organized and entrenched movements like the Muslim Brotherhood. “That will be a big battle,” says Emad Gad, another member of the steering committee. “But if we have only six months, we will do in six months what we would have done in one year.”