Adrian Hamilton: Don't assume that Egypt's uprising has failed

World View


We have expected too much of the Arab Spring and are now in danger of becoming too pessimistic about it. Libya, accoding to a report by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has descended into a state of violence as bad as under Colonel Gaddafi. Egypt has, meanwhile, witnessed the resumption of protests, and the brutality of its suppression as oppressive as during President Mubarak's time.

But then much of the violence in Libya can be put down to the way foreign intervention served to promote the civil war there. At least there is a change in regime and the possibility of a better political framework for the future.

It is Egypt, the Arab world's most populous state and its most influential, where the disappointment in failed expectation seems highest, because the hopes were greatest. Instead of applauding a people ready to take to the streets again and risk their lives to oppose the military, we seem more obsessed with what has gone wrong than the spirit that survives. It's as if we wanted to be reassured in the view that the Arabs are hopeless and their region doomed to everlasting stagnation and tyranny. The Today programme this week gloomily declared that last December a street-seller who had set himself on fire started an uprising which had now ended in failure.

No it hasn't. The suicide of Mohammed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid was indeed the spark that set off the Arab conflagration, but it happened in Tunisia and led within weeks to the fall of the regime of President Ben Ali after a quarter of a century of autocratic rule. Ten months later there were elections in which the people voted freely for a constituent assembly which will set the country's future.

No one should pretend that everything is rosy in Tunisia. It isn't. Youth unemployment remains high, the old elites go on, particularly in the commercial world. But its example is worth remembering when it comes to Egypt. As in Egypt, the Tunisians faced the problem of the continuation of the old rule following the fall of Ben Ali. It was renewed street protests which resulted in the disbanding of the security forces, the dismemberment of Ben Ali's party and the banning of its senior members (thousands of them) from taking part in elections at the end of last month.

Those elections, it is true, are for a constituent assembly rather than for a government, but that assembly does have unfettered powers to appoint an interim cabinet. More important, it has the authority to rewrite the constitution in whichever way it wants, bringing the army and security services under full democratic control.

Egypt isn't the same. Arguably, the Egyptians should have taken to the streets as soon as the army showed signs of resisting control. The question now is whether to continue to hold the parliamentary elections due on Monday or to cancel or delay them, particularly now that the military has said it will bring forward presidential elections a year to next July.

The Tunisian experience would suggest not to delay, let alone cancel next week's vote. If you want change now, you need early elections, however flawed. If you want them to make a real difference, then you should, as the Tunisians did, give the new parliament powers to change the structure and put the military back under democratic control. That's what the protesters need to insist on. Presidential elections are still too far away. Who wants an all-powerful president in any case? That's how the Arab nations got to this state.

Beware Barroso's plea for eurobonds

Chancellor Merkel is right to say that it is too early to consider introducing eurozone bonds now. Either too early or too late. If the idea had been mooted at the beginning of the troubles, it might have flown. You could even have envisaged a more committed UK agreeing to issue part of its own debt in them. But now it would require not just the support of the German population, which is not forthcoming, but a degree of economic centralisation and direction which is simply not there.

Which is why José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, is so keen on them. Contrary to the UK view, the Commission is not on the rampage in this crisis. It is in a fight for its life against the growing authority of the EU President, the assertion of power by the French and Germans, and its own irrelevance on most economic and foreign policy issues.

Bonds are seen as the weapon of reassertion by Barroso. If Cameron had any sense, he'd be backing Merkel on this one.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Health & Safety Consultant

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic and exciting opport...

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Walt Palmer (left), from Minnesota, who killed Cecil, the Zimbabwean lion  

Walter Palmer killed Cecil the Lion with a bow to show off – and now he's discovering what it's like to be hunted

Louis Theroux
Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, arrives with his son Prince George at the Lindo Wing to visit his wife and newborn daughter at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington, west London, Britain, 02 May 2015  

Prince George's £18,000 birthday gift speaks volumes about Britain's widening wealth inequality

Olivia Acland
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'