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Middle East
Egypt protests surprise analysts
Credit given to a new generation for organising and leading street protests.
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2011 07:40 GMT

Friday's demonstrations were the fiercest in four days of protests against Mubarak's government [Adam Makary]

The ongoing unprecedented public protests in Egypt have taken most Egyptians by surprise.

Many of the country's independent and opposition analysts are struggling to explain the latest events and what they mean for the future of Egypt.

They all seem to agree that nationalist feelings and belief in the ability to resist authoritarianism have been revived.

"I swear to God, I cried out of happiness watching the real Egypt reborn again in the middle of Tahrir square on Tuesday night," wrote Emad el-Deen Hueesin, a columnist and the daily independent al-Shrouq newspaper, referring to the first day of protests that galvanised the country.

"Before this day, I used to be one of many people who believe that the people have become dead. What I saw today is that the people are not dead. They have decided to burn their fear instead of burning themselves." 

A new generation

Analysts seem to credit a new generation for organising and leading the protests. They portray a future generation that is better than their fathers and who should rise above the mistakes of the past and above the many problems that divided the country for decades, such as public apathy, fearing the government, corruption, sectarianism, and ineffective opposition groups.

"The new move [protests] reflects a clear generational difference between the generation of my father, my grandfather, my generation, and the generation of my son," Moataz Abdel Fatah, a political science professor and also columnist at al-Shorouq, wrote.

"The Egyptians of today are not the Egyptians of yesterday. Our youth can no longer accept what their fathers used to accept." 

Magdy el-Galad, the editor in chief of the largest independent Egyptian newspaper, al-Masry al-Youm, tried to explain the generational difference by depicting some of the most striking social and economic differences between the new generation and the older one.

"My father was a teacher working for the ministry of education. He, like his generation, used to walk 'near the wall' [meaning the walls of fear]. Some of them used to walk with the 'wall inside them.' Most of them used to 'obey' in order to raise their kids with their 30 Egyptian pounds salary.

"A new generation walks in the streets of Egypt. A generation that did not marry or have kids when everything was cheap.

"They cannot even find jobs that can pay them 30 pounds in public or private sectors. They use the internet to go beyond Egypt and open up the whole world. They have nothing to worry about, no kids, no wife, no home, and no money."

Economic fears

Many think that the recent protests in Egypt and Tunisia are largely motivated by economic fears rather than political or religious ones.

Some analysts make a point of denying claims that protests are largely motivated by foreign interests or orchestrated by the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, the largest and most organised opposition group in Egypt.

Wael Kandeel, another columnist at al-Shrouq, wrote that "what happened on Tuesday was pure and only Egyptian.

"It was something above any party, class, generational, or interest groups divisions. Trying to impose the Muslim Brotherhood in the story is silly and cannot convince a child."

Instead, many blame the regime itself for the protests, saying the regime has gone too far to tighten its grip over power.

"Egypt did not know a real democratic system during monarchy, during [Gamal Abdel] Nasser's time, or during the time of [Anwar] El Sadat. But, it had relatively efficient state institutions; a professional elite, a public education system that made us pound among our Arab neighbours," wrote Amr el-Shobaki, a political author and widely read frequent contributor at Al-Masry Al-Youm.

"This was the case until the current regime came to power and we started witnessing the destruction of the values of efficiency, professionalism.

"We did not only get an undemocratic regime, but we also got a regime that lacks efficiency and imagination. For the first time in Egypt's modern history, loyalty did not become the only way to get close to power, as it used to be before.

"In addition to loyalty, ignorance, corruption, and lack of skills became requirements to get close to power."

El Shobaki thinks that the new elite controlled by business tycoons such as Ahmed Ezz, the new senior leader of the ruling National Democratic Party, went too far to prove their loyalty and value to the Mubarak regime by illegally excluding the representation of most of the major Egyptian opposition parties in the new parliament last November.

The elections were eventually boycotted by the great majority of the Egyptian opposition groups who complained of widespread vote rigging and corruption.

"Vulgar vote rigging in the last elections was a major factor behind the large protestors yesterday. The number of former representatives who went to the streets was noticeable," wrote El Shobaki.

Still, some analysts think the protests should not waste their anger directing it against the cabinet, the ministers, or the ruling party. Instead, they thought Mubarak himself, Egypt's president since 1981, is the problem.

Ibrahim Eisa, an opposition journalist and a staunch critic of Mubarak, wote that "the president is the one responsible. The problem of Egypt is in its president."

El Shobaki seems to agree. "Whoever thinks the problem in Egypt is the government is wrong. Egypt's problem is its president who has been ruling the country for the last 30 years," he wrote.

Hassan Nafeah, a political science professor and widely respected independent opposition figure in Egypt, thinks Mubarak will not get the message conveyed by the ongoing protests.

"Mubarak, who came to power by mere luck and not because of any pre-qualifications, and who stayed in power for thirty years and still wants to stay in power until his last breath, cannot understand a message telling him 'enough'."

Nafeah thinks the Mubarak regime will try to belittle the protests and not recognised them.

"I expect more government stubbornness as regular because the president and senior officials don't change their agenda and 'cannot be subjected to any pressure'."

"They consider people's demands as 'some kind or arm twisting'," wrote Abdel Fatah, whose only hope is that the new generation will continue their protests and no longer fear the government.

Analysis taken from Friday's press

Source:
Al Jazeera
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