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What do Egyptians really want?

What do Egyptians really want?

We’ve all been watching the drama unfold in Egypt these past two weeks. But, asks Linda Heard of Arab News, given their vast number, do the people even know what they want?

February 8, 2011 2:45 by

The real revolutionaries are well-educated students, young professionals, academics, intellectuals and activists, who are split between a real need for an availability of jobs for college leavers and an idealism that has civil liberties and Western-style democratic freedoms at its core. Unfortunately, they have been naive in that, first, they haven’t designated one leader with the charisma to unite the nation behind them and the authority to conduct a dialogue with Vice President Omar Suleiman and, secondly, they have allowed ambitious individuals and a hotchpotch of opposition parties from the Muslim Brotherhood to the Communists to hang on to their coattails.

When reporters have asked some of them who they want sitting in Mubarak’s chair they’re often at a loss. As far as I can ascertain, they along with just about everyone else here, are united in their unenthusiastic attitude toward former IAEA head Mohammed El-Baradei who opportunistically flew in from Vienna and has since spent most of his time talking to high profile journalists in the leafy garden of his villa. When Arab League Chief Amr Moussa arrived in the square, he met with a lukewarm reception. Given his popularity a few decades ago on the street, this was surprising. As for Ghad Party founder Ayman Nour, he doesn’t have any real base and is thought of as Washington’s man.

Of course, as we’ve heard over and over again, the hard-core demonstrators who have camped out night after night in Freedom Square, often cold and hungry with bandaged heads and backs pockmarked from shotgun pellets or rubber bullets, will accept nothing less than seeing President Mubarak walking off into the sunset. As much as I admire their courage and perseverance, I think they’re on the wrong track. As someone said on Al Jazeera I think, Mubarak’s departure is an event, what follows is the much more important narrative.

Whether the president hangs on until the nth minute of his term is neither here nor there in the great scheme of things because the real rulers of Egypt are military head honchos, which is why every government since the Free Officers’ coup against King Farouk in 1952 includes ex-Army and Air Force generals and 80 percent of the country’s present day governors are military men. The military is not going to relinquish its power even if its chiefs agree to accept a civilian president and a unity government filled with intellectuals, so-called wise men and technocrats.

As things stand, both the government and the protesters are fiddling while Cairo and other cities burn in terms of security, the economy and international reputation. Both sides need to find a way to compromise. President Mubarak admits he’s an old soldier who has no intention of deserting his post and he is being supported by the military — and, I suspect, by the US behind the curtain. In that case, the revolutionaries should change their slogan to reflect their real goals — an end to emergency law, a clampdown on corruption from the top down, political and social freedom and elections that are transparent, fair and open to impartial monitoring. On that package I think all Egyptians, whether rich, poor or somewhere in between, can agree.

Arab News

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