Inside Story

The state of Egypt's revolution

Egyptian society remains polarised, two years after the start of the country's popular uprising.
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2013 10:51

Mass street protests in Egypt have marked the second anniversary of the country's revolution, as many promises remain unfulfilled and the population is still bitterly divided.

"What we have seen is basically the military holding on to power and possibly even striking a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood so that it cements these powers ... and the Muslim Brotherhood have long abandoned revolutionary goals over the past two years and they have fed the public nothing but lies."

- Wael Eskandar, journalist & political activist

January 25, 2011 was the start of 18 days that shook the Middle East when hundreds of thousands of people filled Tahrir Square, demanding new jobs, education, the right to form political parties, a free press, and the end of dictatorship.

That uprising swept President Hosni Mubarak from power and brought democracy to what is the region's most populous country; but two years on, many Egyptians feel they have little to celebrate about.

While some of their demands have been met, the country is still grappling with big problems. And Egyptians are more divided than ever on how to fix them.

In the last two years, Egyptian society has become increasingly polarised, with liberals, leftists and secularists on one side and President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, and a government dominated by Islamists on the other.

Part of that divide is the perception that the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to keep as much power as it can. The challenge for Morsi is convincing the Egyptian people that he is a leader for all Egyptians.

He has had a turbulent seven months in office but his party is keen to highlight the government's achievements, including bringing an end to military rule and the election of Egypt's first civilian president.

"I would question, as I have from the outset, whether there has been actually a revolution in Egypt at all. I never thought there has been one and I still don't think there has been one exactly. What you had was a popular uprising that forced regime decapitation by the military and then you have had a process of a very delicate dance between certain political parties ... and the military about a form of power sharing."

-  Hussein Ibish, foreign policy contributor

The elections also produced a house of parliament, though the lower house has been dissolved.

A new constitution was written and endorsed by the people in a popular referendum. But much of what is in that constitution is also one of the opposition's biggest grievances.

Mubarak was put on trial but his case hit a hurdle after he was granted a retrial.

And despite Egypt's deep economic problems, the government says foreign investment is starting to trickle in.

Samsung recently signed a $1.7bn deal to build its first Middle East factory in Egypt. And regional neighbours like Qatar have earmarked billions of dollars in grants and loans.

But, two years after the revolution, Morsi will still have to address the demands that brought people on to the streets: better wages, more job opportunities and a more just society.

To discuss the state of Egypt's revolution, Inside Story with presenter Hazem Sika is joined by guests: Wael Eskandar, a blogger, journalist and political activist; and Hussein Ibish, a regular political contributor to publications such as Foreign Policy magazine, The Atlantic, and Al Hayat.


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