Thursday, 3 February 2011

Egypt: The outcome of the uprising remains unclear

Ten days after protests began, the outcome remains unclear. What is plain, however, is that Egypt has experienced an unprecedented eruption of popular protest against the 30-year rule of President Mubarak — and that the regime is prepared to fight back.

The protests were sparked by the so called 'Jasmine Revolution' in Tunisia, which led to the departure of President Zein el Abdine Ben Ali.

The authorities in Egypt were caught unprepared. The protests were orchestrated by young, internet-savvy activists using Twitter and Facebook and other social networking sites.

The authorities responded by cutting off internet access to the outside world and blocking mobile phone signals. Google reacted by creating a novel form of Twitter by the ability to leave voicemail. An ominous note came from Google which announced that one of its senior executives, an Egyptian, had been missing since the riots began.

By the end of the week, internet services were being restored.

The protestors came from a dozen different groups, mostly secular, but all in different ways calling for the end to what they called a corrupt and repressive regime.

The main opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, remained studiously silent at first, although there were Brotherhood sympathisers among the protestors from the outset.

It has played a shrewd political game positioning itself behind the scenes for a potential role in any future Egyptian government, particularly by backing Dr Mohamed El Baradei, the opposition figure who spends much of his time in Europe.

The group's manifesto is similar to that of most mainstream secular opposition, and contains no clear singular ideology. The group has said it does not believe in the concept of an 'Islamic State' but is working towards the formation of civil one, in which political forces work together regardless of political affiliations.

Two leading Muslim Brotherhood figures, Essam El Eyrian and Abu Fotouh, have said that the movement's goal has not been clearly transmitted to a global audience, creating moral panic in international diplomatic circles about the prospect of an Islamic takeover of Egypt.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

© 2010 Menas Associates

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