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Ayman Mustafa writes:An aging, corrupt and oppressive regime has been substituted with a relatively younger one with almost the same characteristics
By Ayman Mustafa, Special to Gulf News
Published: 00:00 June 1, 2011
Image Credit: Reuters
The state apparatus in Egypt, comprised of old establishments and institutions that survived centuries of ups and downs, has been deteriorating constantly for the last four decades. It hit rock bottom a few years ago, as the state and ruling regime became almost synonymous with corruption, oppression and incompetence. People started realising the obvious fact that there's no strong state as such — it's merely their perception. The popular uprising mainly broke the fear of the people. But it didn't challenge the rest of the illusions.
The latest demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo and other major Egyptian cities reflect the anxiety and uncertainty among the core popular movement that led the January 25 revolution. Liberals, leftists, and moderate activists feel that the protests that ousted president Hosni Mubarak didn't change the country much, and that the demands of the people have not been met.
Aspirations to make Egypt a prosperous democracy are fading due to the inefficiency of the interim regime, allied with traditional opportunistic parties like the Muslim Brotherhood, comical old opposition groups and business interests that flourished under Mubarak and tribal alliances.
The absence during the May 27 demonstration of Islamists and other factions of the elite, who had enthusiastically claimed a leading role in the revolution is an indication of the long way ahead for Egypt to truly change after more than three decades of deterioration.
Though the ruling military council is responding sporadically to popular demands concerning the fight against corruption, it's not doing enough to cleanse the state of the Mubarak regime's legacy.
Relying on the remnants of the rotten state bureaucracy along with the more organised movement of the Muslim Brotherhood, the council is starting to ignore the progressive youth movement.
People have started to realise that the short statement read on February 11 by then vice-president Omar Sulaiman is exactly true: Mubarak is stepping down and handing over power to the military. That's why the government formed by Mubarak stayed in power. People, however, were still angry so it was sacked and replaced by another interim government comprising figures from the third rung of Mubarak's regime and one or two from the irrelevant old parties.
The state is still run the same way as in past decades. That's why regional and international powers started promising financial aid and support, after they were assured that the "change" is not radical and old ‘stability' of Egypt can be maintained through some credit guarantees.
The state apparatus in Egypt, comprised of old establishments and institutions that survived centuries of ups and downs, has been deteriorating constantly for the last four decades. It hit rock bottom a few years ago, as the state and ruling regime became almost synonymous with corruption, oppression and incompetence.
People started realising the obvious fact that there's no strong state as such — it's merely their perception. The popular uprising mainly broke the fear of the people. But it didn't challenge the rest of the illusions.
From 2002 onwards, the regime hired a few entrepreneurial, well-educated clowns to further distort the state. They fabricated books and figures to impress their bosses and the international community. That gave the regime a life-line but plunged what remained of the state deeper into the morass of corruption and incompetence.
It seems to be hard for Egyptians, even the progressive pro-democracy core, to accept that there are no sound state fundamentals except in their perception. Those who are aware of the facts are reluctant to speak out, as they risk being accused of treason and instigating chaos.
You can't tell the people that even the few state institutions you rely on to lead the change are not strong, despite there being evidence of legal and legislative distortions, corruption in some segments of the judiciary and ineptitude of the security agencies.
Opportunistic old powers, even within the so-called liberal movement, are actually exploiting this perception to take over the defunct state apparatus and using it for their own ends. This will definitely not usher in freedom and prosperity in Egypt.
It will take a while for people to realise that they just substituted an aging, corrupt and oppressive regime with a relatively younger one with almost the same characteristics. That course might spare the country painful side effects of radical change, but will prolong the process of change.