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April 7, 2011

Questions Egyptians are asking

Rania Al Malky

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CAIRO: In an ironic numerical coincidence, 67 days after the January 25 outbreak of the popular revolt that toppled Egypt's 30-year regime and its dictator ex-president Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians have returned to Tahrir Square to "save the revolution,"

For some, the connection between 67 days and the Naksa is all too poignant. In the 1967 Naksa (setback) Egypt lost a six-day war against Israel which cost it the entire Sinai Peninsula and during which Israel annexed the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Many who went to Tahrir on Friday were feeling, perhaps with little reasonable justification, that a similar setback is “stealing the revolution,” a phrase frequently used to describe a potential disaster scenario where after the dust settles and the euphoria of getting rid of Mubarak subsides, everything will go back to the way it was before, the only difference being in the names and faces.

While I personally do not believe that Egypt will ever return to the horror of its black pre-Jan. 25 reality, many Egyptians do, and here are 26 questions they’re asking:

1. Why aren’t Mubarak and his family in court until now?

2. Why is ex-interior minister Habib El-Adly still not being tried for his involvement in the killing of peaceful protesters in the early days of the revolution?

3. Why did the Prosecutor General wait over a month and a half before imposing a travel ban on the icons of the past regime, 21-year House Speaker Fathi Sorrour, National Democratic Party (NDP) and Shoura Council Speaker Safwat El-Sherif, ex-chief of presidential staff Zakaria Azmy and former housing minister Mohamed Ibrahim Soliman?

4. Why has the National Democratic Party not been dissolved?

5. Why are former NDP leaders still allowed to participate in the political transition to democracy, despite the clear conflict of interest?

6. Why is the state of emergency still in place?

7. Why have governors and heads of local councils appointed by the previous regime not been replaced?

8. Why have leading figures in the Egyptian Radio and Television Union not been removed from their positions despite inciting violence against protesters and spreading disinformation during the uprising?

9. Why is there a media blackout on the severe human rights violations committed by members of the military police against Tahrir protesters on March 9?

10. Why is there a similar media blackout on violations by the army including the use of cattle prods, to disperse Cairo University students demanding the removal of the dean on the Faculty of Mass Communication?

11. Why has the army maintained a monopoly over all decisions, while staging an unnecessary referendum which cost the state coffers LE 200 million when, in effect, all its decisions have been unilateral?

12. Why doesn’t the constitutional decree recently announced by the army shrink the powers of the president?

13. Why is the army insisting on fast legislative elections, even though all indicators signify that they can only lead to an overwhelming majority for Islamists and ex-NDP members?

14. Why is the army being secretive in its drafting of vital laws that will see the country through the transition, such as the much debated law regulating the establishment of political parties?

15. Why did the Illicit Gains Authority only just approach the EU to demand the freezing of assets by leading members of the former regime?

16. Why has the government not set a minimum wage until now?

17. Why is Cabinet attempting to intimidate workers by proposing a ban on workers’ strikes in a blatant violation of International Labor Organization standards?

18. How can we trust investigators and prosecutors that were all part of the previous state machinations?

19. Why hasn’t the ruling army council set up a special tribunal of known judges and prosecutors untainted by connections with the previous regime to probe the corruptions cases?

20. Why is the army council sidelining the young activists who sparked the revolution?

21. Why has there been no official investigation into the attack on presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei on referendum day?

22. What is the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians trapped in Libya?

23. Why haven’t all political detainees been released?

24. What is the mandate of new Interior Ministry arm — National Security —that has replaced the notorious State Security apparatus?

25. What is the Interior Ministry doing with the State Security files?

26. What is the government doing about the rising domination of the Salafi discourse threatening a bigger role of religion in politics?

Many of these questions betray a deeply engrained lack of trust between the people and authorities, which is slowly poising some peoples’ image of the army as a just arbitrator and protector.

However, when it comes to the constitutional decree announced Wednesday, I share the view of Amr Hamzawy, researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in a column in Al-Shorouk Friday, that despite a few critiques, hats off to the army for not abusing its current position by giving itself more powers in the interim phase and promising to pass on all legislative authorities to the PA as soon as it is elected.

All other changes like shrinking the president’s sweeping powers, for instance, or canceling the Shoura Council, will be in the hands of the constituent assembly charged with drafting a new constitution.

Since we have chosen the path of democracy, we must accept that democracy takes time, but that only vigilance, self-education, political awareness, persistence and transparency will guarantee that we’re on the right track.

For now we must also accept that chaos too is part of the transition and that the only way to avert descending into absolute chaos is to move the tug-of-war between the will of the people and the power of the state from the street to the dialogue table. We don’t want the million man protests to lose their impact, who knows when we’ll seriously need them again.

Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.

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