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Tahrir Redux?

May 27, 2011

Al Masry Al Youm photo by Tahseen Bakr.

Many of the original leaders of the youth movement that planned the Jan. 25th uprising remain unhappy with the new regime. Its call for May 27th protests in Tahrir are a significant piece of political communication, seeking to demonstrate that the protest movement still has significant political muscle.

The tens of thousands who gathered should certainly serve as a significant message. But it is likely to stop short of persuading the military to revise its actions on constitutional reform or replace itself with a civilian council. Indeed, although promoted by some of the protest movement leaders, its not clear these ideas have much traction even with all the varied branches of the protest movement.

A week ago a “National Dialogue Conference” that was supposed to bring together the revolutionaries, on the one hand, and the supreme council of the armed forces and the government of Doctor Issam Sharaf on the other, failed to do so. In part, it was because many of the main concerns of the revolutionary movement–constitutional reform, elections, and rules governing the forming of political parties and public protest–have already been decided, mostly in an arbitrary manner, by the two governing institutions.

“[W]hat could we be talking about after the important laws have already been ratified [without any dialogue]?” asked Khalid al-Sayyed, a spokesman for the Coalition of the Revolution Youth in an interview with Al-Hayat. “These conferences are being used to improve the image of the current government and the ruling military council after they have both failed to manage the situation during the transitory period.”

And so we have today’s protests, the Day to Revive the Revolution called for by (among others) the April 6 Youth Movement, the Youth of the Revolution Coalition, the Kafeya Movement for Change, the Baradei campaign, the National Association for Change, the Democratic Front Party, the Free Egyptians Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party. Tens of thousands turned out, Copts and Muslims took turns praying, an attempt at violence against the protesters by unknown assailants in cars was repelled, and the military pointedly stayed away.

Although an earlier statement (May 16) agreed with many of the complaints uttered by the youth movement spokesman, the Muslim Brotherhood announced on its web site May 25 that it would not participate officially in the demonstrations because “the revolution of the Egyptian people is proceeding despite all the obstacles placed by the counterrevolutionaries to block the change.”

The statement said that the Brotherhood “recognizes the delay affecting the accomplishment of many important and vital issues and that the performance of the military council and the transitional government are not as perfect as it is wished by the people” but prefers to seek solutions “through assistance and correction, and not through confrontations, accusations of treason or attempts to lead to clashes between the people and their national army which supported the success of their revolution.”

Many of the Muslim Brotherhood’s young leadership cadres outspokenly disagreed with the official stance, but it’s not clear how many took to the streets today. But several well known sheikhs and other public figures were present.

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