Monday, 31 January 2011

Who's in Tahrir Square, and what next?

The professional and managerial middle classes -- the ones who launched the Egyptian uprising last Tuesday -- remain very much a presence among the hard core of protesters in Tahrir Square, judging by my tour of the area on Sunday night and Monday morning. I met dentists, middle managers, IT engineers and businessmen, all of them committed to driving President Mubarak out of office. Except for members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are a significant but not dominant element in the protest movement, most of them did not claim to have any formal political affiliation. Surprisingly, as I am writing in my informal capacity as a contributor to Reuters, support for Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was rather unenthusiastic, though I suspect that in the end he would prove an acceptable transitional figure if people were confident that Mubarak and his associates were well and truly defeated. The key to the next few days remains the opaque manoeuvrings at the top of the military-security establishment, where the main players are Mubarak, Vice President Omar Suleiman, prime minister-designate Ahmed Shafik and caretaker defence minister Tantawi. The status of caretaker interior minister Habib el-Adli is opaque. The fact that Mubarak included him in a meeting yesterday suggests Mubarak is deaf to the street - a worrying sign.
    If Mubarak is still in power at noon on Friday, it could be a very bloody day. Read the following statement from an unknown group called the Youth of the Revolution:

    "We the people and the youth of Egypt demand from our brothers in the national armed forces to outline their position clearly and without ambiguity. They must either take the side of millions of Egyptians protesting or stand in the camp of the regime. We await a response to this statement from now until Thursday, February 3, bearing in mind that if no response is given, it means bias towards the regime, at which point we call on
all Egyptians to protest on February 4 for the 'Friday of Departure' after Friday prayers. Finally, we call on people to march to the presidential palace and parliament building and the state broadcast building in millions across Egypt ... to impose the wished of the Egyptian people."

    I have no idea who is behind this, but the logic is unassailable and the same plan must be taking shape in the minds of those committed to seeing the revolution through. There may be no other way, despite the inevitable bloodshed. Then the army would have to come off the fence.   

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