Tahrir Square is filling again today, but it no longer holds the symbolic power for Egyptians that it did in early 2011. Now it's more of a democracy ghetto.
Within hours of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s being pushed from power by a popular uprising, activists were huddling in cafes and apartments around Cairo, asking, “What next?”
All of them, from recently politicized young revolutionaries to labor activists to the seasoned hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, knew the task would be daunting. “Mubarak, go!” was a proposition that millions of Egyptians were happy to get behind. The “what are we for?” bit, and forging unity against a regime that had lost its figurehead but not its raw power, was always going to be the hard part.
Nearly a year and a half later, Egyptians have participated in five rounds of elections but still have no civilian government. The country’s interim military rulers, who had promised a civilian government by July, have made a last-minute power grab that appears to end all pretense of their being the guardians of a democratic transition.
Today, protesters are once more filling Tahrir Square, this time with their anger focused on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that has ruled Egypt since February 2011. But the square no longer holds the symbolic power that it did in early 2011. Then, the show of people power broke through a taboo against protest and the fear of decades.
Now, Tahrir is a sort of a democracy ghetto, a place where the military allows public rage to be vented and contained. As the thousands streamed to Tahrir the military issued a statement insisting its recent steps – dissolving parliament, making constitutional moves to cement its power and protect it from civilian oversight – were for the good of the nation.
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