The aftershocks of Revolution

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Tahrir Square, Egypt
Demonstration in Egypt, during the Arab Spring. Photo: Ahmed Abd El-Fatah

To analyse a revolution is like analysing an earthquake. Both are unpredictable and tumultuous and are an outburst of unexpected expression which overturns the status-quo dramatically. That one is naturally occurring, while the other is manmade, does dampen the analogy a little, but political scientists would join in the consensus that says that revolutions become inevitable and compulsory at a certain point. Regardless whether there is democratic or autocratic rule in a country, revolution becomes important when the masses get tired with how things are and want change.

The earthquake analogy was made as both events take place seemingly ‘out of the blue’ and no one knows the length of time of the event. Another uncertainty is the damage and the casualty count that inevitably take place, making both events shrouded in mystery.

This all brings to mind the recent Arab Spring which took place through most of the Middle East in 2011. The ousting of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was seen as a new turn of events in the region and the rise of citizens against an undemocratic ruler.

Mubarak had reigned over the country for decades, and it was felt the constantly constricting social, economic and political boundaries of the regime were strangling the people. The protests at Tahrir Square were seen all around the world through social media as the regime clamped down on dissidents in any way possible, and in the end, the masses won over the few and Mubarak was overthrown. The world lauded this as the first step in the march towards democracy for the country.

Forward one year, and 2012 saw the coming in power of Morsi. After a grueling electoral process, a government was chosen.

Many in the West were stuck in a dilemma. Should the West support the conservative, right wing political power — or, go against the will of the people by condemning democratic elections because they didn’t like the result. Fortunately, it chose the first one and stayed out of the internal affairs of Egypt.

One more year, and it seems that Morsi went from being the popular, democratically elected leader of Egypt — to the most hated person in the country. With the repeat of scenes that took place just two years ago, a military coup was called, the army took over the country, declaring Morsi unfit to lead. The fault lines that seemed to have settled down in the two year process shifted once again, and the aftershocks claimed another government.

The outcry now seen in some quarters, is the fact that this was a democratically-elected government and that with Morsi supporters in the streets, the army pulled the trigger a little too quickly. The people should have used their democratic rights and channels in order to cause a change in the system rather than resort to coercive measures. By holding the country hostage, the few were able to take precedence over the opinion of the majority, and set in motion the downfall of the system.

If the normal democratic process would have had been used, the death toll that is seen in both anti and pro-Morsi protests could have had been avoided and democracy could have been allowed to flourish. But I disagree with that notion. I feel that just like a natural disaster, this was waiting round the corner and that public opinion was bound to overflow, one way or the other. The simple reason for that is, the government ignored the protests, and as there had been no political support from any quarter in Egypt, meant that people felt they had no option but to protest.

With their voices going unheard, they had to express their views in whatever way possible and they did. Had their concerns been raised in the democratic lobbies, it would have eased their concerns in some way, shape or form. Another reason, is that if the government felt that they were the legitimate voice of the whole country, they could have held a vote of confidence, or just carried out a referendum. The holding onto the power of the government and not letting go, showed that there was an element of authoritarian rule by the Morsi government.

With shades of the latter days of the Mubarak regime, the people rightly protested as they were allowed to. The involvement of the military is not a good notion going forward, but the indifference by the government had to be addressed one way or another. It is uncertain how long the rioting will go on for, and whether the system will stay together. The earthquake has not passed, and there are still aftershocks taking place. Maybe the next election will see the same result as the last one, and it might be taken with differing opinions around the world.

One thing is certain though. The aftershocks will be felt for the next few years as the tremors continue to take place in the political landscape. What we should hope for, is that the casualties can be limited as much as possible and that the government that is chosen has popular and broad-based support. That is the only way the wheels of democracy can move past the stagnation of the Mubarak regime.

© Zain Naeem

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