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New epoch for revolutions begins
Tue, 08 Mar 2011 16:52:36 GMT
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Egyptian protesters (file photo)
Democratic revolutions have historically swept across the world in waves, moving dozens of countries from authoritarian regimes to democratic systems of government.

Modern nation is full of epochs when multiple nations drew inspiration from their neighbors and comrades. The French and American revolutions, both imperial and anti-imperial, fed off each other. Following World War I, the Russian Revolution and the “Roaring Twenties” witnessed the first free elections in nearly 30 countries. Another wave arose at the end of World War II as many countries were liberated from fascism and military dictatorship.

In 1974 Portugal, Greece, Spain, Latin America and East Asian countries experienced major revolutions. Of course, the collapse of the Soviet Union permitted free expression to hundreds of millions. Even the turn of the millennium witnessed demands for democracy in Slovakia (1998), Serbia (2000), Georgia (2003) and Ukraine (2004).

Perhaps the most important characteristic of that latest wave, unlike the preceding ones, is that democratization did not occur after the result of wars which redrew world maps, but democracy arrived through the electoral process. Their elections, terms of conduct, constitutional and legal frameworks and transition process were all designed with equality occupying central importance.

It was not so easy, of course. They did not immediately recognize the political systems that existed prior to liberation, and so remained locked in battle with the democratic forces, direct and indirect, in order to preserve power. The old powers remained strong, with the mouthpiece of the ruling parties of the old state security restricting the process of transition towards democracy, as they often directed the media but disregarded the old images they used to control.

Clearly, recent events show us that the path of democratization is always a path full of events, crises stumbles, setbacks, and resistance from the reactionary forces. This incomplete liberation continued until a peaceful transition of power was finally and fully achieved but the complete ousting of the fat cats and string pullers who worked for the deposed king.

The question in 2011 is will this scenario of prolonged resistance from the rejected establishment be repeated in the Arab world, the site of the latest wave of democracy?

Over the past decades, the Arab world in particular resisted, and just as importantly was prevented from outside powers, from joining in these waves of democracy. It was the Tunisian revolution which finally opened the door for Arabs to join the modern world, but in Egypt it is now our goal to inspire the modern methods to speed the transition from an authoritarian to democratic regime.

This is why the Egyptian revolution did not simply stop with their demand for removal of our dictator but have and will continue to insist that the entire regime be removed, and our slogan has reflected that from the beginning: “The people demand the removal of the regime”.

Clearly, the Arab establishment is doing all it can to keep as many of its henchmen in place, even if they have had to sacrifice a few bell cows. It is not enough for Tunisia to demand just the removal of Ben Ali, and weeks later, Prime Minister Ghannouchi. Nor is it enough for Egypt to be content with the ousting of Mubarak and now Prime Minister Shafiq.

The system's corruption is bred into their illegitimate government, their corrupt ruling (single) party and their despised security agencies. For those of us in Arab lands, we know this to be true. What we hope to impress upon others is that the regime's mechanisms of repression include all the various state institutions, banks, newspapers and everything else they put their greasy hands on. With their policy of patronage, exclusion, carrot-and-stick grants and prevention of the truly neutral and free individual, the old regimes are the direct cause of the confusion experienced by most institutions and bodies since the Arab Spring has begun.

Changing the system is harder and more complicated than removing the president, because it involves changing policies and practices, a redefinition of powers and a forced disengagement from the former security state from indeed every area, domain and organization in Egypt - such was the extent of their reach, such as the result of the large gap in the trust left by the Mubarak regime.

Many here urge less demanding for openness, especially regarding the military and their role in public life and business. They urge for the continuation of the government, citing the fear of any negative impact on grants and foreign aid, on the grounds that the Egyptian economy in urgent need now to rise again. This is true, but what we must demand is a new method to deal with this foreign aid. And that is emblematic of what are demanding now: a new method to deal, period.

Cairo has seen recent movements of intensive diplomacy, whether Western or otherwise, as they came and went to Tahrir (Liberation) Square, showing great willingness to provide financial assistance. Certainly, we put aside cynicism in our jubilation and assume that these people came to support the people and not the continuance of mismanaged government. It is also assumed that these diplomats are well aware of the stages of transition to democracy and its inherent instability - a mere framework is must easier to topple than a fully-built house. It should be a question of “person” or “people” to them, but also they must not rush the Egyptian experience as a whole, which would jeopardize the extent of its success and its transformation into a modern democracy. This is the true guarantor to obtain recognition of the good intentions of international aid, and we are right to be wary - it was international aid that propped up the dictator(s).

Upon reviewing the many previous models, the stages of the democratization process is well-known and not limited to the Egypt's uniqueness. But complete openness is a demand we will never back down from, both domestically and externally. We urge our Arab brothers to accept nothing less either.

The article is written by Mostafa Boghdadi, co-organizer of the Egyptian Facebook protests since 2008.

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