Current Affairs in Egypt

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Tens of thousands of Egyptian demonstrators took to the streets on 25 January, young and old, Muslim and Christian, rich and poor, educated and not so-educated. They all chanted “Long live Egypt”, “Life, liberty and human dignity” and “Down with the Mubarak regime”. The day marked for the celebration of Police Day was dubbed the Day of Rage. The protests, which continued through a second day in almost every part of the country, are showing no signs of abating on the third day, with a million-strong march scheduled for Friday. These demonstrations are sending shivers down the spine not only of the regime but of its friends and allies as well. The scale of the protests came as a blow to all those who have been betting that a sleeping dragon will continue its slumber. For three decades now, Egyptians have been kept on a tight leash, fed more with promises than with bread. They were cajoled into compliance by a media that has the interests of the regime at heart and a religious establishment that owes its allegiance and existence to the state, but were often threatened into submission by the force of the baton if they refused to comply. Egyptian grievances are numerous. They have seen neither the fruits of peace nor of the huge economic growth that Egypt is reported to be making in international economic indices. What they experience on a daily basis is endless queuing for inedible bread and suffocating traffic congestion as the police force is increasingly burdened with the task of protecting the regime and its men. There were also demonstrations last month calling for a minimum monthly wage of 1,200 Egyptian pounds (roughly £130). Too much, said the government. It could only promise to institute a minimum wage of 400LE (£43). This is hardly surprising from a government made up of businesspeople who no doubt have a vested interest in keeping wages as low as possible. The spokesmen of the regime shamelessly argued that it was a fair wage to expect. For some years now, the Mubarak regime has been heading for disaster. With rampant unemployment, soaring prices and a 30-year long state of emergency, its popularity has dropped to an all-time low. But more importantly, it has repeatedly shown its total disregard for public opinion, a disregard that would have amounted to political suicide under any other system. An obvious example is the rigged parliamentary elections of November 2010, which were perhaps the worst in Egypt’s history. The ruling National Democratic party had the audacity to announce that these elections were one of the fairest in Egypt’s history. Ahmed Ezz, the iron-tycoon-turned-politician and one of the new guard at the NDP, who is known to have masterminded the electoral operation, triumphantly announced the results. He stated that the landslide victory that secured 98% of the parliamentary seats for the ruling party was the result of its popularity on the streets and the fruit of the hard work of its members. The initial call for the Day of Rage was made by young Facebook activists inspired by the success of Tunisians in overthrowing Ben Ali. The Facebook invitation for the protests received 95,000 positive responses. Other forces and opposition groups later responded to the call, including the Muslim Brotherhood, whose participation has so far been quite low-key. For the first time in decades, Egyptian protesters went out in unprecedented numbers across the whole country with one slogan: “People want the regime to fall”. They made their demands clear. Mubarak should step down, the illegal parliament be dissolved and emergency law be suspended. The call was for the whole country to rally and unite, and there were no religious chants or slogans. The reaction of the regime to the protests so far has been pathetically inadequate. It shows that this regime is still in denial. While Mubarak kept his silence,...
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