The country's reaction to the stadium disaster shows that the desire to finish what started a year ago is as strong as ever
A Good Editorial
guardian.co.uk, Friday 3 February 2012
"One of the many features which made Egypt's deadliest night of football different from similar stadium disasters at Hillsborough or Heysel is the widespread belief that the violence was planned. There is circumstantial evidence for this view: from Port Said stadium itself, where knives and swords were smuggled into the stadium, exit gates were locked, gates on to the pitch mysteriously opened, and riot police remained uncharacteristically static; and from the wider political context, just one week after the military partially lifted the state of emergency.
The deep state has previous form. Anyone who can release convicted criminals to terrify the middle class into rejecting calls for Mubarak's resignation, or who opens fire on Coptic Christians to increase sectarian tensions in the runup to elections, is more than capable of organising a knife fight between rival football fans. Whatever the truth, the tragedy in Port Said stadium has sparked two days of rioting and renewed demands for an immediate transfer of power from military to civilian rule. It feels like groundhog day, as the streets around the interior ministry fill with teargas. The difference this time is that a parliament exists, and this has become its baptism of fire.
The chaos of the first anniversary of the uprising in Egypt has given rise to gleeful attempts to declare its premature demise: the Arab spring is in midwinter; soaring hope has turned sour and disillusion now reigns; the economy of a country where 40% live below the poverty line is on its knees. All partially true. But consider the scale of the change being demanded in the post-Mubarak transition. From a paternalist dictatorship to a society stripped bare, where every social contract has to be renegotiated and there are no rules, let alone a functioning police force and justice system. A huge, and perhaps unbearable, weight of expectation rests on the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice party controls 46% of the new parliament and is in a position to call the terms on which the military hand over power. Before the deaths in the stadium, the Brotherhood, along with the Salafi Islamists, stuck to the military's preferred date in June. Parliament has debated forming a government of national salvation. If the social chaos in Egypt is being choreographed from a bunker in the bowels of SCAF, the ruling military council, it is having the opposite of its intended political effect. It is speeding, rather than slowing, demands for an immediate transfer of power.
The Arab spring should not be so speedily written off. The reaction to the tragedy in the stadium shows that the desire to finish what started a year ago is as strong as ever."