Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

What next for Egypt and is the revolution betrayed?

Does a 'deep state' exist in Egypt? I've been asking myself that in the streets of Cairo as more and more people - doormen, shopkeepers, policemen's families and taxi drivers - express their support for "Stability Shafik", Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister, who watched his former boss be sentenced to life imprisonment last week.

Ahmed Shafik says that he stands for stability. A spot of security on the streets - and now the young people of the 25 January revolution are asking what happened to them.

Some of their cartoons are funny. The one where Mubarak's face morphs into Shafik's - via the all-powerful Field Marshal Tantawi - is a cracker.

The young sometimes seem to be the only Egyptians left with a sense of humour - until you actually talk to them. And then they speak of betrayal.

Is Mubarak's ghost going to be reinstalled, substituting a security state in place of a democracy?

That's what many of the protesters are asking ahead of the second round of presidential elections on June 16 and 17.

Shafik has already sectarianised the run-off by saying that his challenger, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, would have Egypt's capital in Jerusalem - a clear dig at Morsi's links with Hamas and Israel's fears of an Islamist government, though Shafik might have said that Morsi wanted the Egyptian capital in Mecca.

That would frighten the Saudis. Under Shafik, the Egyptian capital will remain Cairo. It's all a bit rhetorical.

But how did all these Egyptians suddenly come to regard Morsi as a dangerous man? Is the crusty old dictator's security regime still in action? They were, after all, past masters of the fraudulent vote. A little tinkering here and there - especially in the villages of Upper Egypt - and we might see Shafik safely installed.

"Do you think we had a democratic election?" a lady from Al-Watan newspaper asked me in Cairo. "Do you really think so?"

She obviously didn't think I did. Then I'm chatting to a very prominent Egyptian reporter and the questions come thick and fast.

"Isn't there a deep state; can the security apparatus not fix the election by using all their old agents?" And yes, why can't the guys who handled Mubarak's witless polls not put the word out that Morsi is too dangerous to have around?

Then there's the obvious question of who Washington would like to see in power. The brotherhood? Surely not.

However democratic he claims to be, Barack Obama doesn't want Morsi installed in Cairo before his own presidential election.

So think of the demonstrators in Cairo who still want their revolution honoured, who believe the Mubarak regime has got off too lightly.

New trials for the Mubarak clan? Unlikely, of course. But revolutions don't always pan out quite as we want.

It's all about questions right now. And the Egyptians want to ask them before they get the "security" that some people think they deserve.

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