CAIRO, Egypt – There’s virtually nothing on the streets of the country’s capital that might give you an indication that Egypt is just weeks away from its parliamentary election – the first one since former president Hosni Mubarak’s ousting.
People aren’t talking about the candidates, as the final list has not yet been determined. There’s nothing in the way of campaign banners or material in public spaces.
If anything, the signs, banners and posters that remain are all related to the revolution, and despite the fact that the atmosphere at the famous Tahrir Square resembles a county fair – with food, jewellery, toy and T-shirt vendors galore – the sentiment right now is one of anger and frustration.
The October 9 Maspero incident when a peaceful protest march turned violent, leaving 27 dead and many more injured) has served as a rallying cry to continue pushing back against the country’s ruling military.
There is also an organised movement against the use of military tribunals to try civilians.
A series of statements made by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) this week – that workers who protest and strike are “wrong” to do so, that people should stop accusing the armed forces of “betrayal,” and that Maspero deaths were not caused by military fire – did not serve to assuage those concerns.
“They did this to dishearten us,” said Mostafa Mohie, 27, a member of the Socialist People’s Alliance.
“They want to make it seem that nothing has changed.”
But he points to the growing labour movement – and the protests therein – to show that things have changed.
Repeating the narrative of the armed protester – one which has been hotly disputed by those who were at the October 9 march – also serves to reinforce the idea that SCAF needs to remain in power to protect the people, all the way through the presidential elections, which for now, have been pushed back to March 2013.
On a Wednesday appearance on Dream and Tahrir channels, by two SCAF army generals Mahmoud Hegazy and Mohamed El-Assar, El-Assar seemed to hint that demonstrations would not be tolerated during the elections.
“No police forces in the world are able to secure elections and demonstrations at the same time,” he said
“We just hope the people don’t hold any demonstrations during the elections.”
That seems unlikely, given that there have already been a few marches and protests around town in response to the Maspero killings. (Note: An interview with a SCAF critic Alaa El-Aswany (Akher Kalam) was cancelled on Thursday, and the show’s host Yosri Fouda announced via Facebook that he had halted his show indefinitely in response to “relentless” censorship).
When asked if he held out any hope that the parliamentary elections would progress the goals of the revolution, Mohie said he felt the opposite – that the parliamentary elections would only slow things down.
He said that those who were likely to get voted in – many of whom had ties to the Mubarak’s regime – would only stymie change.
This is a strange irony to consider, that the democracy Egyptians fought for can hit a brick wall at its very first elections.
“When you take the revolution to the elections, you will lose. We will lose in these elections,” Mohie said.