North Africa, West Asia

A possible alternative

The independent revolutionary youth of Egypt who disapprove of both a military dictatorship and the Islamists are facing a brick wall. However, activating the Revolutionary Front and bridging the gap with democratic technocrats could strengthen the true liberal opposition and would be a crucial step for hope.

AbdelHalim H. AbdAllah
3 February 2014

On the third anniversary of the 25 January revolution, there was mayhem. The youth who crafted the revolution found themselves sidelined and voiceless. Fatalities reached 49 and arrests reached 1079 according to official counts. Several attempts at protest were successfully dispersed by security forces who opened fire against protesters in various neighbourhoods, injuring and killing opposition protesters regardless of their political affiliation.

Meanwhile in Tahrir Square, Egyptians who had voted 'Yes' for the constitution went to celebrate the anniversary of the revolution with police and military forces. Those Egyptians did not just vote 'Yes' to passing the draft of the constitution and to supporting the road map; but to guaranteeing a temporary security that would sustain human rights violations against the opposition, while indirectly giving the green light to de facto ruler Minister of Defence Field Marshal Abdel Fatah El Sisi to run for presidency.

In the same week that the opposition was forcibly silenced, Egypt found itself with a new field marshal who is backed by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) to run for presidency. Both state owned and private media are blessing such a move and calling the field marshal, “the man suitable for this phase.” The billboards that were spread all over Cairo calling Egyptians to vote 'Yes' have changed to pictures of the field marshal with the slogan of “the will of the people”, which is ironically the same slogan used by the campaign of ousted President Mohamed Morsi roughly translated as, “the renaissance is the will of the people.”

Independent youth

Independent revolutionary youth who disapprove of both military dictatorship and Islamist fascism find themselves in a real fix. A serious gap has been created between the dreams of the youth of a democratic state and the post 3 July current scenario.

The independent youth were ridiculed and abandoned by the Muslim Brotherhood in 2012 during the struggle against SCAF. Now because of the failure of the revolutionaries to create an alternative democratic project; they need to either pick the side of the Muslim Brotherhood, joining their resistance to re-install the ousted president to a presidency they conceive as a failure, or take the side of SCAF and the so called “liberal parties” that support Sisi for presidency and call for the annihilation of any trace of the “terrorist organisation” of the Muslim Brotherhood, regardless of the human rights violations this may lead to.

This situation has led to the withdrawal of the revolutionaries from the political scene, which was evident from the 98.1% 'Yes' result with a 38.6% voter turnout in the referendum. The presence of independent youth in the streets has been decreasing steadily since the military-backed ouster of Morsi, as they refused to cooperate with the youth of the Brotherhood who call for the return of Morsi and were moreover busy with following up on the detainees who were arrested for breaking the protest law, issued by the Cabinet in November 2013.

The general psychological state of those youth who strive to maintain their independence is depression along with a strong feeling of resentment towards the outcome of the 2011 revolution that once called for "Bread, Freedom and Social Justice" and which has now - three years later - fallen far indeed from this standard.

The political action of the independent youth is now limited and disoriented, with a general tendency either to escape through immigration, isolation and excessive consumption of intoxicants or a kind of suicide through irrational clashes with security forces that can so easily lead to detention or death.

A call for reconciliation

One of the reasons for this situation is the lack of political will that would represent the aspirations of the youth and at the same time convince the average Egyptian of their competence. The deep state that was created by Mubarak’s 30 year regime was able to unseat any conceivable candidates capable of holding executive positions, although Egypt is full of resourceful technocrats who have been educated at elite schools and have occupied leading positions in regional and international entities.

Some kind of reconciliation between the currently disoriented youth and the democratically competent technocrats is necessary, especially with presidential elections coming up. The independent youth still have an opportunity to select and back a team of democratic technocrats with whom they can work hand in hand on an alternative project. This support for a technocratic candidate might be able to salvage what remains of the dreams of the revolution and gradually win it back from the both the military and the Islamists.

This alliance would then need to work out a mechanism that creates an equilibrium between the normative dreams of the perfect revolutionary utopia and the empirical realm of the dire current situation of the country. Such a reconciliation could at least guarantee to the independents that their agenda involving transitional justice, and the founding of a democratic law-abiding state that respects human rights might one day become a reality.

One step was already taken last September with the formation of the Revolutionary Front that comprises independent individuals along with several movements and groups like 6 of April, the Revolutionary Socialists, and others who denounce both military rule and the Islamists. Activating the Revolutionary Front and bridging the gap with democratic technocrats could strengthen what remains of a truly liberal opposition. It would be a crucial step forward.

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