Angry egyptians streamed to the iconic Tahrir square to protest the decision. Agree or Disagree discusses the implications of this with Hisham Kassem, who’s a political analyst and Karim Bitar, a researcher at the Paris-based Institute for International and Strategic Relations.
Following the court's decision to acquit Hosni Mubarak Egypt's public prosecutor said he had appealed against it. Will this change anything and how critical is the situation for the country? Tune in to find out more.
What thought did you have when you heard the decision of the court to drop the charges against Mubarak?
Hisham Kassem: I was not surprised. Mubarak stayed in power 15 days after the 28th of January when the biggest uprising in the modern history happened in Egypt. And it was clear through the 15 days that he was not going to stay in power. He had time to destroy all the necessary evidence. And so, when the case was presented the first time, he was sentenced for negligence, not for the active role in shooting the demonstrators, but for failing to protect them. And it was almost like a way out for the judge, that there was very evidence that has been submitted to the court, that would have made it possible for any of the defendants in the case to be sentenced.
Karim Bitar: Yes, I totally agree. What is happening is truly disheartening. It is perhaps the last nail in the coffin of the Egyptian revolution. I have the feeling that the entire Arab world today is going through the phase of full-fledged counterrevolution. And today it seems obvious that the counterrevolution has triumphed in Egypt. Mr. Mubarak might very well go free in the coming days, while the democracy activists and journalists are still in jail. So, Egypt is marching steadily back to authoritarianism and this is pretty sad three years after the revolution that was truly fantastic and has inspired the youth all across the Arab world.
What is going to happen next?
Hisham Kassem: I think the outcome of the dropping of the charges is that there is going to be a continuity of this process. There are people who are now looking at the fact that was that his biggest crime, what about the 30 years that he basically stifled growth and the cost this country has paid for that man’s failed and corrupt, and fairly brutal 30 years.
Karim Bitar: There is indeed a revolutionary fatigue. People are no longer angry as they used to be, they just want to go on with their lives. I would have expected much more anger in the streets of Cairo after this verdict, which was really a judicial farce.
2000 people that came to Tahrir Square is still quite a number. Do you think it is likely to trigger more protests or things will kind of quiet down?
Karim Bitar: I think for the time being things are going to quiet down. But in a few months, when it will be clear that the new regime is unable to address the economic and social problems that are plaguing Egypt, when it becomes clear that a return to authoritarianism is not a solution, the youth might again rise up.
Many liken al-Sisi with Mubarak. Is this comparison then justified?
Hisham Kassem: No, certainly not. I don’t think Sisi can take things back to the Mubarak days. Right now, what we are going through is the situation where the country is not back into politics, but the current situation is not sustainable for long. There has to be a parliament that needs to be elected and the political process needs to start. Sisi knows that, otherwise there is going to be an economic disaster and the last thing we can afford is an aborted presidency. We need to finish this presidency, even if it simply is a platform to shift from the Mubarak authoritarianism to something better than what Sisi can offer.
How do you see the role of the US in all of this?
Hisham Kassem: The American position has always been very pragmatic and the necessity to maintain good relations with whoever is in power is going to remain. They tried it with Morsi with all those theories that there could be a mild form of Islam. But when it failed, they shifted. And I think if the current process fails and somebody else emerges, whether it will be the return to the Islamists or the emergence of some other power to run Egypt, the Americans will do business with them.
I’d like to get your thoughts on the immediate future of Egypt, how do you see it?
Karim Bitar: The Egyptians went through an emotional rollercoaster and we have to wait for the emotions to run down, basically. It is very important for all the Egyptians who refuse authoritarianism to realize that unless we open up the political process, unless we accept the engagement in the dialog with those Islamists who reject violence, the polarization will bring nothing but a disaster to Egypt. Tunisia is showing us that it is totally possible to try to transcend the polarization. It is not absolutely written in stone that the Islamists will install a dictatorship and refuse all sorts of pluralism. We are planting the seeds of future instability, if we accept this return to authoritarianism and if we give Mr. Sisi a free path.
Hisham Kassem: The Tunisian model is nowhere applicable in Egypt. With all the respect to Tunisia, it is half the size of the capital of Egypt. Cairo is the city of 20 million and what applies here doesn’t apply there. This is the heart of Islamic fundamentalism, the MB. Here they were far more powerful, than they were in Tunisia. And whether it is the MB or Boko Haram, or al-Shabab, or Daish, it is really the same. I hear a lot by the international analysts – okay, why don’t you ask the Brotherhood to sit with us. The Brotherhood insists that we leave the nation’s table and sit at their table. So, until they are ready to sit at the nation’s table with the rest of the political currents, without acting like a supremacist entity, there will be no inclusion of them in the process. They have to sit with the rest and not force upon us the Islamic process, as opposed to the national process.