Saturday, May 5, 2012

Egypt's generals wait in the wings as battle for democracy sours

In Cairo, violence flares between gangs and Islamists. In Alexandria, discontent grows as the country's politicians lose their way ahead of elections. And over them all looms the shadow of an army far from ready to give up power

Peter Beaumont in Cairo, Saturday 5 May 2012

".....Egypt's long-awaited presidential elections – the first round of which begins on 23 May – appear to be unravelling amid rising violence and protest. By the end of Friday, two people were dead, including a soldier; hundreds had been injured or arrested; and a curfew had been imposed by the army in the area where the violence was worst.

Once again, the most significant faultline of the protests – one that threatens to overshadow the election campaign – has been the growing rift between the generals and the political parties who would replace them when – or rather if – the army relinquishes power, as it has promised to do, on 30 June.

Some of those out protesting on Friday have special reason to despise them.....

But if the Brotherhood had hoped to pack the square that became the symbol of the resistance to both the Mubarak regime and military rule, they were to be disappointed, despite bussing in supporters from hundreds of miles away. The Brotherhood, once regarded as Egypt's most organised and potent political force, has begun to wane.

As the election nears, Egypt's fragile transition to democracy is slipping into turmoil. It is not just the killings, or the repetition of the generals' heated denials – on Thursday they insisted that they had nothing to do with the bloodshed, had no preference for who should be president, and had no desire to cling to power. It is that the process that was supposed to deliver a transition to democracy appears to have been undermined at almost every turn by Egypt's de facto rulers, creating a growing sense of disillusionment, not only with the army, but with parties such as the Brotherhood......"

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