The protesters of Tahrir Square: democratic watchdogs or 'naive minority'?

Screen grab from a video showing a protest in Tahrir Square on Monday. The signs reads: "Down with the next president!"
 
 
Cairo’s Tahrir Square has been besieged by protesters every day since former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was handed his sentence Saturday. Demonstrators claim the country’s justice system is controlled by the army, and want to cancel the second round of the presidential elections, in which Mubarak’s former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq is one of the two candidates. However, they do not have the support of all Egyptians.
 
On Saturday, the former president, along with his interior minister Habib El Adly, were given life sentences for ordering the army to kill protesters during the Egyptian revolution last year. On the same day, the high court acquitted six former high-ranking officials from the Interior Ministry of the same charge, citing a lack of evidence. Mubarak’s two sons were also cleared of corruption charges.
 
A protest in Tahrir Square on Saturday, when the courts handed down their verdict in the Mubarak trial. 
 
These verdicts, which some say do not go far enough, have fanned tensions just days before the second round of the presidential election, slated for June 16 and 17. Shafiq, a former air force commander, will compete in a runoff with Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi. While Morsi made a brief appearance in Tahrir Square on Saturday to salute the protesters, Shafiq declared that the court’s decisions had to be respected.
 
Three of the presidential hopefuls who didn’t make it to the second round – Hamdin Sabbahi, Abdelmonem Aboul Foutouh, and Khaled Ali – headed to Tahrir Square on Monday to publicly condemn the court’s verdicts and call for a boycott of the second round of the election.
 
People protested in other cities on Sunday. Here, a protest in the city of Tanta, just north of Cairo. 
 
A protest in Mansoura, 120 kilometres from Cairo.

'How is it possible not to punish those who carried out the orders?'

Sanaa Youssef is an accountant. She took part in protests in Cairo and Suez.
 
The verdicts handed out on Saturday are absurd. If [former interior minister] Habib El Adly received a life sentence for giving the order to kill protesters, then how is it possible not to punish those who carried out the orders?
 
While these verdicts were being pronounced, protesters were already out in Tahrir Square, demanding that a law forbidding former Mubarak regime leaders from running for political office be applied. The aim of this is to get Shafiq out of the race. So the slogans they chanted were not just about the verdicts; they more generally condemned the return of the former regime’s leaders. Many of these protesters intend to boycott the vote because they are against anything organised by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [the military transitional government.]
 
The Tahrir Square protesters are a motley crew. There are those who participated in the revolution, of course, but there are also Islamists. During the first round, some of the protesters voted for Aboul Foutouh [an Islamist candidate who came in fourth], others for Sabbahi [a Socialist candidate]. For some, it’s their very first time protesting. They are people who up until now had tolerated the military government, but were disappointed by the court’s verdicts.
 
Though I too was disappointed, the current situation gives me hope. When we heard the results of the first round, we were distraught with the choice before us: we would have to choose between an Islamist and a former regime figurehead. But today, all eyes are once again on Tahrir. These protests prove that a third choice exists.
 

'Protesters have got to understand that they are in the minority'

Mohamed Adel founded the organisation “Guarantee Your Rights,” whose members served as election observers during the first round of voting.
 
The demonstrators are very naïve if they think they can influence Egypt’s political and judicial systems just by protesting in Tahrir Square. The courts hand out verdicts based on evidence, not on people’s emotions or the number of people in the streets. I understand that many find it illogical that Adly was convicted while his colleagues from the ministry got off scot-free. However, if the judge wasn’t shown any compelling evidence against them, what else can he do but acquit them
 
In addition, I think it’s absurd to protest when we have the tools to change our country democratically. International observers said that the first round unfolded in a fair and transparent manner. The former candidates who went to Tahrir Square on Monday are just sore losers. They’re calling for people to boycott the vote until the law against former regime officials running for office is applied to Shafiq. But it’s a little late for that, and they’re only coming out against it now that he’s made it into the second round and they haven’t.
 
Protesters have got to understand that they are in the minority, and do not represent the Egyptian population. Even two million protesters [which some activists claim is the number of people who have come out onto the streets these past few days] really isn’t that much in a country where more than 80 million people live. What they’re doing is putting on a show for the media. They talk about judicial reform and putting an end to the military regime, but they have no concrete plans for the future. The fact is, Egyptians living abroad have already started voting for the second round, so this election will take place! They’re just wasting their time, and wasting ours, too.

Comments

The Protesters Made A Difference The First Time Around

To quote Mohamed Abel, but dropping the 'The': "demonstrators are very naïve if they think they can influence Egypt’s political and judicial systems just by protesting in Tahrir Square." Given the Arab Spring, that statement is rather absurd, though of course it took more than protests to get Egypt to where it is now. Regardless, to dismiss the power of the protest seems revisionist, at best. And characterizing them as 'sore losers' is a bit of a childish evasion: surely anyone can understand the point of view of those in Tahrir Square now, and why they might feel betrayed, even if they do not empathize with it.

Mohamed Abel makes me sad: maybe nothing has changed in Egypt, after all.

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