Editorial: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss
We knew that those on the front lines were the ones putting their lives at risk to protect protesters and curious onlookers occupying the square. As we breathed in wisps of teargas at the field hospital, we saw a steady stream of wounded coming in from side streets where clashes still raged.
Some threw rocks, others brought medicine, but everyone in the square had rallied together for this collective expression of anger against the ruling military council. The scene resembled the early days of the revolution, when Tahrir had not yet acquired its festive ambience. A somber and determined crowd emerged from nine months of spasmodic resistance, receiving a wake up call from the treasured illusion of "the people and the army, hand in hand."
This "second wave" of the revolution has brought to light what many knew even before the January 25 revolution; that the Supreme Council of Armed Forces are merely an extension of the old political order. The supra constitutional principles championed by SCAF and Essam Sharaf's weak government reflect the military's desire to preserve the interests of its own institution over those of Egypt.
As people give their lives in Tahrir, the military council has insisted elections go forward according to plan. This system of normalization does not veil the ugly truth behind SCAF's policies; over 12,000 civilians detainees have faced or are expected to face military trial, forced virginity tests, crackdowns on political expression, and a caretaker government which is incapable of resigning despite its own inadequacies.
Under these circumstances, any parliament, no matter how "representative" would have its power undermined by the political structure surviving February 11. Elected parliamentarians may have the best of intentions, but if there are no mechanisms in place to limit the military's legislative influence, then this is a futile exercise in how to bring about a façade of democracy.
Contrary to popular belief, that parliamentary representatives will be the ones to write the constitution, the majority of committee members entrusted with putting together the cornerstone of a future Egyptian state would have been handpicked by SCAF. The supra-constitutional principles are a sample of the kind of unilateral decision-making we can expect under continued military rule.
In Field Marshall Tantawi's first address to the nation since the outbreak of violence, he spoke at length of the military's accomplishments, in a Mubarak fashion, chastising protesters for their irresponsibility. As he wound down his speech, he proposed that SCAF would relinquish power if that is "the will of the people." This will would be expressed in a referendum, he said, "if necessary."
His words were met with disregard in Tahrir; too many people had died, not enough concessions had been made. A referendum, requiring organization, mobilization, and ultimately, reliance on SCAF to arrange the voting process, muffles the voices of anger and cries over the loss of human life. Instead it offers a politicized and orderly outlet, and an excellent distraction. If the revolution that began on January 25 is to be realized, protesters cannot accept any concession that does not transfer power from the men in uniforms to those on the streets.
Some have supported military rule, reluctantly, because they could see no other alternative. As SCAF looks to replace the current caretaker government, the major concern is that these changes will mimic the previous Shafiq to Sharaf cabinet reshuffle. But those in Tahrir are aware of this, and are holding out in order to challenge the underlying power structure that places SCAF above all else, even the will of the people.