Huge numbers of people turned up in Tahrir last week, despite a noticeable lack of official enthusiasm from the Brotherhood leadership. The obvious lesson for the MB to draw is that there is a very large constituency that wishes to see SCAF out. That is why the Brotherhood is making loud noises, the first day after the first round of elections, about a civilian takeover of Egypt’s government immediately after the elections. SCAF, after all, could easily characterize the protestors in Tahrir as not representing Egypt (putting aside the casting of aspersions that they are not “Real Egyptians”) but it will be much harder for them to do so when confronted with a coalition of the MB and the denizens of Tahrir (ie the old revolutionary coalition).
From this we can draw a few conclusions about the demonstrations in Tahrir last week, which many are prematurely viewing as a missed opportunity or as the last gasp of liberalism in Egypt before the country drowns in a torrent of fundamentalism. In fact the protests have already had, and will continue to have, profound implications for Egyptian politics. Here are three of the most important:
- Moving up the presidential elections.
- Putting to rest the idea, hitherto still popular with sectors of the press and sad-sack liberals that large-scale protests were only possible with Islamist participation. (We know there was scattered Islamist participation last week but the key is that it was not organized.) The Brotherhood may have cultivated this idea for their own reasons, but as we said, it has now been disproven.
- Girding the MB for a showdown with SCAF. We see on Twitter that Essam El-Erian is already walking back his comments to the NYT about challenging SCAF rule in the elections’ immediate aftermath, but does anyone think that the Brotherhood would have been quite so willing to challenge SCAF power so soon after just the first round of elections at all had they not seen all those people in Tahrir last week? Perhaps it was just a trial balloon, but we think the balance of power has shifted in favor of civilians, and will have done so decisively at the conclusion of election season. SCAF has been put on notice. One could say that the MB is still cowardly, because if they had called their cadres into the street last week there is a good chance that SCAF would have given up and handed power to a civilian council. Just as likely they would have delayed elections, an outcome that the Brotherhood did not want. Not because they thought they wouldn’t win if elections were held later, but because in any presidential council scenario, they would have been equal partners with the liberals and leftists who were the first movers last week. Pursuing the electoral route, and assuming they win, the Brotherhood will be able to lead a coalition of political powers against SCAF, rather than just being one party or tendency among several.
Our basic point is that the combination of elections and last week’s demonstrations are good news for those who believe that getting SCAF out should be the first priority for democrats in Egypt. We’ll write our (also optimistic) take on the elections and the constitution later, but for now here are a couple of songs that make us think about the revolution.
This one is probably the best song ever written about hip hop, and the only spoken word thing TBE ever listened to more than 1/2 times. Also has a lot to say about the revolution, just replace the words “hip-hop” with the words “the revolution”:
This one makes less sense, just a nice song with a couple resonant lines: