Chronicle of a Doomed Uprising: The Egyptian Revolution

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In January 2011, the peoples of the Middle East began their march towards seizing a share in the leadership and resources of their countries, following centuries in which they were deprived of this share by various ruling oligarchies. This uprising, which broke out in Tunisia, spread to Egypt. However, just like the European peoples' struggle for a share in power, this campaign against the total hegemony of the ruling elite is bound to be a drawn-out, multi-phased historical process, with numerous setbacks and crises. This first round the present uprising in Egypt will not be without some achievements, but it is ultimately doomed to failure, in that the Egyptian military establishment will retain its grip over power and resources in the country.

The following analysis examines the uprising in Egypt as a microcosm of the process in the Arab world at large, and argues that the Egyptian protests are less a cry for democracy and freedom than they are a bid for power by a disenfranchised middle class.

The Direct Triggers and the Underlying Cause of the Egyptian Uprising

The current wave of protests in Egypt was triggered by three factors:
1) A deterioration in the economic situation of the masses as a result of the global rise in food prices (while this was a central factor in Egypt, it was even more pivotal in Tunisia);
2) The total exclusion of the opposition from the Egyptian parliament following the last elections, in which the ruling NDP party took 460 seats while the opposition (not only the Muslim Brotherhood, but all opposition parties) was granted no representation at all;
3) The protests in Tunisia, which provided the Egyptians with a successful model of popular uprising.

In-depth scrutiny reveals, however, a more fundamental cause underlying the Egyptian uprising a bid by the people to wrest power from the military oligarchies that have been ruling Egypt and controlling its resources for centuries.

From the Middle Ages, Egypt was ruled by Mamluk military oligarchies and dynasties. In the early 19th century, the Ottoman-appointed governor of Egypt Muhammad 'Ali wiped out the ruling Mamluk elite and established his own dynasty, which dominated the country well into the 20th century, wielding power even under British occupation. This dynasty was overthrown in 1952 by the Free Officers' Revolution, which set up its own oligarchy and established a joint military and civilian infrastructure. This oligarchy dominates the country and wields total control over its resources to this day.

Over the years, a middle class has emerged; however, it lacks any share in the country's resources and centers of power. Today, this middle class consists mainly of young people with high rates of unemployment and no hope for the future, but who possess education and a familiarity with the democratic world especially thanks to the modern information and communication revolution.
Given all these circumstances, the present uprising was only a matter of time.


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