Revolution or coup?

Patrick Cockburn writes:

Demonstrators fearful that the tide of revolution is on the ebb in Egypt staged a mass protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo last Friday to demand that a less authoritarian form of government be introduced.

The protesters appeared to sense that political power is drifting away from them and the old system is reasserting itself as they gathered after Friday prayers beside the blackened hulk of the old headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).

“I am worried that there are so many forces against the revolution, mainly in the army,” said Ahmed Maher, a 30-year-old civil engineer and coordinator of the 6 April Movement, a group that played a crucial role in organizing the street protests that ended the rule of President Hosni Mubarak. He added: “By demonstrating, we are showing our anger at what is happening.”

Egypt’s revolution is uncertain of its identity, or even if it really was a revolution. Maher would prefer radical change but does not expect it. “I realize the revolution will not bring a new Egypt,” he says. “We will have better people in charge and perhaps less corruption, but not a different system.”

Maher, who was jailed five times and tortured severely under the old regime, does not seem too downcast at present frustrations. The shadowy Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had failed to invite any of the radical groups to a dialogue, but he thought the political situation was fluid and the army would give ground under pressure. He said: “They don’t want a clash with us.”

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