Despite the Army’s Obstruction, Egyptians Work to Build a Democracy
On most days, there’s a deceptive normalcy to Tahrir Square, center stage of Egypt’s 2011 revolution. Traffic, not protesters, paralyze the streets. But politics are still roiling.
This is a crucial period for Egypt. Between now and July 1, Parliament is supposed to select a committee to rewrite the Constitution and Egyptians will vote whether to adopt it. They will elect a president and learn what verdict and sentence their deeply flawed court system gives Hosni Mubarak, the former autocrat charged with complicity in the killing of 800 protesters during the uprising that forced his ouster.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which won a majority in the new Parliament, is proving more pragmatic than expected. Emad Gad, a lawmaker from the opposition liberal bloc, says “we can cooperate with” them. The Brotherhood is also working with the military council that has failed at running the country and is supposed to cede power to the new president in June.
This is prudent politics and may give the army the confidence to return to barracks. But many Egyptians fear the army will never allow a full transfer of power to a civilian government. That would be a disaster for Egypt and a dishonor to all those who battled to overthrow Mubarak’s dictatorship.
There is talk that the Brotherhood has already compromised on a critical army demand for the new constitution by limiting civilian oversight of the military budget. There’s also no word on whether anyone in the army will be held accountable for the deaths during the uprising. Meanwhile, the military council and its allies are busy punishing their critics for specious offenses.
Ziad el-Elaimy, a member of Parliament from the Social Democratic Party, is facing an ethics review after criticizing Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the council chief, and calling for his resignation. Mr. Elaimy expects the council will force Parliament to remove him from his seat. Egypt’s military prosecutors are investigating 12 top activists — another attempt to intimidate the opposition.
The military council wasted a year not making decisions about the economy. Foreign reserves are down; unemployment is up. Amr Zaki, an influential member of Parliament from the Muslim Brotherhood, said his party would soon replace the military-appointed central bank governor and cabinet, whom he accused of preparing to sign bad business deals. Those changes also have to be approved by the military council and it’s unclear whether they will agree.