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PV Vivekanand: Generals worry Egyptians
June 06, 2012
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It is not a question of leniency for an ousted autocrat that is dominating the minds of most Egyptians when they consider the life-term given to former president Hosni Mubarak by a Cairo court which found him guilty of complicity in the killing of protesters during the 180-day revolt that overthrew him last year.

The real fear of the Egyptians is that their revolution is being hijacked by a conspiracy they believe is hatched by the military, which took over the country when Mubarak stepped down. Once seen as the saviours of the revolution, the ruling generals have disappointed the Egyptians by showing every indication that they are in no hurry to hand over power to a civilian government and want their man in the presidential palace with absolute authority.

In the meantime, speculation is rife over the Mubarak verdict.

Mubarak could have been sentenced to death but most Egyptians seem to have accepted that the judiciary could not have handed down the capital punishment to the 84-year-old bed-ridden man or former interior minister Habib Al Adli, who is in his 70s and who was also given a life sentence on the same charges.

The protests that began at Tahrir Square after a Cairo court pronounced the judgement were mainly sparked by the acquittal of six police commanders on the same charges and of Mubarak’s sons Gamal and Alaa on corruption charges.

There could be at least two scenarios for Mubarak and Adli who, activists say, continue to enjoy the support of the ruling generals, who are seen as anxious to get them and figures from the former regime out of prison.

Lawyers for the families of the victims who were killed during the revolt say that the prosecutors had deliberately weakened their case against them so that the former president and interior minister would be sentenced but subject to appeal. Either that or the concerned authorities – all remnants of the Mubarak regime – withheld co-operation in the investigations so that the prosecutors were unable to build a strong case.

The prosecution is also expected to appeal the verdict.

In any event, legal experts and activists seem to expect Mubarak and Adli to be cleared by an appeals court because of the weakness of evidence against them.

The other option for the ruling generals, activists say, is to ensure that their man wins this month’s presidential run-off and, in his capacity as president, declare pardons for Mubarak, Adli and others and help them fly out of the country.

Most Egyptians are worried over the possibility that their revolution will come to naught if the military tilts the balance in favour of its undeclared candidate, Mubarak-era man Ahmed Shafiq, in the June 16-17 run-off. They fear that a Shafiq victory will mean a resurrection of the “regime of the elite” that prevailed in the country since a monarchy was toppled in 1952. Shafiq has promised that this will not be the case, but the perception of the former air force commander of what is good for the country could vary dramatically from that of an average Egyptian.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which saw its popular candidate Khaled Al Shater disqualified from the presidential race, has been jolted by the surprising show that Shafiq put up in the first round of the voting. He scored only one per cent less than the 25 per cent secured by the Brotherhood’s back-up candidate, Mohammed Mursi, who is not exactly known for political lustre.

The Brotherhood’s only hope lies in convincing those who voted in the first round for candidates like Abdul Moneim Abol Fotouh, Hamdi Sabbahi and Amr Mousa – who collectively garnered about 47 per cent of the first-round vote – to rally behind Mursi in the run-off. That is what the group is hoping to accomplish despite signs that many disgruntled voters could simply stay out of the run-off.

At the same time, not many first-round voters could be drawn to the Shafiq camp in the run-off.

Officially, the Brotherhood says it has called for countrywide protests. In reality, the Brotherhood is holding itself back from public protests because it does not want to upset the applecart it gained through the first post-rebellion parliamentary elections. That is why its supporters are staying away from demonstrations against the Mubarak verdict. It fears that if the protests grew in intensity, the ruling military could disband the legislature where Brotherhood representatives account for nearly half of the seats.

As a result, the Brotherhood has adopted a patient strategy of going slow and steady, making gains wherever the opportunity presents itself and trying to outguess the military.

For the liberals of Egypt who want an absolute democracy it is a choice between living under a regime similar to the ousted one or an Islamist-dominated government.

In the meantime, the Shafiq election campaign seems to have suffered, with the candidate not daring to venture out to meet voters for fear of sparking violence.

One thing is clear: Shafiq does not stand a chance of winning the presidency in a fair and free election unless of course the generals rig the process in his favour. If that happens, then, inevitably, more blood will be spilled in the streets of Egypt and last year’s revolt would look like a Sunday school picnic.

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