SCAF Chief Is a Few Steps Behind Protesters' Demands

As if they had not learned from a lesson they witnessed firsthand, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) of Egypt issued a communiqué which is way behind what protesters would accept. Tantawi, SCAF chief, came out on TV and instead of issuing a public apology to the families of thousands of protesters who were wounded or killed by police and military forces during the violent clashes of the past 4 days and nights, put the blame on some invisible "powers" conspiring against Egypt's best interests. Tantawi offered a compromise which might have been acceptable a few weeks ago -- that is to hand power over an elected president by June 2012, instead of some vague time in 2013 according to the original road map which SCAF had adopted based on a highly flawed road map which was mostly endorsed by the Muslim Brother back in March.

The plan of SCAF holding power for the next seven months was met by unanimous rejection from hundreds of thousands of protesters who gathered in Tahrir and other squares across the entire country. The reasons of such rejection are many. SCAF, which was cheered with the famous chant "The People and the Army are One Hand" back in January and February, lost trust and credibility as it slowly failed to meet its promises of protecting the revolution and handing over power to a civilian government in six months as it originally pledged. For months, revolutionaries watched in despair as their aspirations of democratic transformation were gradually crushed. Military trials of civilians including bloggers and activists continued and Alaa Abdel Fattah, a famous tweep activist with considerable following, was detained pending military trial, while Mubarak and his regime top officials suffered no punishment for decades of corruption which ended with thousands killed and injured in January's revolution. Worst, former ruling party leaders and MPs reappeared on the political scene with more than ten new parties and thousands of candidates for the parliamentary elections, originally planned to commence in just a few days, on Nov. 28th.

What people wanted to hear was a clear plan to hold presidential elections within weeks not months, elections which would deliver Egypt from military to civilian rule that lasted almost sixty years. But instead, Tantawi followed Mubarak's ill-fated strategy of being a few steps behind Tahrir demands. SCAF is now caged between a hammer and a hard place, as the Muslim Brothers and other Islamist political forces still insist on holding the Parliamentary elections first, to capture what they see as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to achieve unprecedented gains while new liberal and leftist parties are still being formed and building their infrastructure, financial, political, organizational and logistical capacity. It is a hard place to be in, and the few days and weeks ahead will demonstrate if SCAF would indeed learn from Mubarak's mistakes and realign their plans with the high expectations of the protesters.