Unrest in Tahrir

Despite having overthrown former president Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians are a dissatisfied lot. The latest clashes between the Tahrir square campers and the security forces has seriously jeopardised the coming elections scheduled for next week.

Despite the Armed Forces Supreme Council having reiterated that elections will be held on time, there are doubts pertaining the feasibility of polls in such a charged and violent atmosphere.

Things are expected to take a turn for the worse as thousands more have decided to take to the street following the crackdown on Monday when dozens were killed.

This is not a sudden phenomenon. Over the past many months there has been a rise in anti-military sentiments for what is perceived to be the army’s deliberate policy to stay in power. Many Egyptians have been critical of the army’s intervention in the civilian domain and for its hold in government institutions in addition to its reluctance to bring to justice, key figures of the Mubarak regime.

This continued even after elections were announced. With only a week to go, the situation has rapidly deteriorated, as witnessed over the past many days. As a result the transitional government led by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has given its resignation to the Supreme Council which is yet to be accepted. Lack of trust in the military has led to a rejection of any appeasement measures that are being considered. This does place the government in a difficult situation. It is also not possible for the Egyptian army to look the other way and tolerate any violent protests thereby allowing for a breakdown of law and order.

With both sides seemingly prepared for a confrontational engagement, Egypt seems to have slid back to the days of the January Revolution. While any genuine demands for political transparency and justice must be given due credit, the people must also realise that these need to be fulfilled through proper channels post elections. Choosing the right people to form an elected government is something they must do. By blaming a transition arrangement and directing frustration and anger at the military, little can be achieved except delaying the democratic process. Is this what the anti-Hosni revolution was about? The Egyptians then wanted to bring about social and political change. They are being offered a chance to cast their ballots. Choosing violence is not the way to go about it.

The ruling Council and government must also engage with the political parties to defuse the tension and instead prepare for the elections. Destabilisation is not acceptable.

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