Egypt's military 'frustrated' by protesters, demands

| Apr. 18, 2011

Dubai Initiative Executive Director Ashraf Hegazy speaks to The World Today about the political developments following the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt's military 'frustrated' by protesters, demands

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EMILY BOURKE: It has been two months since the government in Egypt was toppled but the country's path to democracy is proving to be a slow and messy one.

Protesters are continuing to demand reforms from the military council, which is notionally in charge of the country.

Many of these demands are being met. Egypt's former prime minister and finance minister have been charged with corruption, and a high level court has ordered the dissolution of the former ruling party.

But the military is getting increasingly frustrated with what seems to be an endless list of demands from a splintered revolution movement.

Ashraf Hegazy is the son of an Egyptian diplomat and the executive director of The Dubai Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School.

He spoke to me earlier today from Massachusetts.

ASHRAF HEGAZY: It is very confused right now. There is a lot of elation of course at this new found political freedom but also people aren't sure exactly what the political system is going to be like and even how the elections will be set up. A lot of people are starting parties for the first time, really the whole concept of true political parties did not exist under the one party system.

So there is a lot of trial and error and people discovering things as they go along.

EMILY BOURKE: Who's in charge? Who is in control?

ASHRAF HEGAZY: That's a very good question. Officially the military council, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is in control but what is happening is that there has been a lot of legislation by demonstration. So when people take to the streets and they make demands the supreme council has been doing what people are asking for.

So as there has been a lot of pressure on them, they've been giving people what they want but at the same time their responsibility is to maintain stability and guide the country until it can be handed over to a civilian government and I think right now they are starting to show frustration with the constant demands from mostly the youth and it is unclear how much more patience they are going to have with these demands.

EMILY BOURKE: Given the key demands of the protesters have been met at least in principle, are the protesters running the risk of losing credibility? Is their movement guilty of overreach?

ASHRAF HEGAZY: Yeah, I think they are getting to a point where they will start overplaying their hand. I think people are getting frustrated with the economic situation in Egypt. The economy is in very poor shape and of course, as long as there are protests, the economy isn't moving forward and now you are also starting to see the original unity that overthrew the regime, it was easy for everybody to support that idea that the regime has to be removed.

Once the regime is removed, the unity of the revolution has started to crack. So now you see several different groups that had created this coalition, this youth coalition that overthrew the regime, they are now starting to focus on their different priorities and their priorities are in a lot of ways impossible to meet.

EMILY BOURKE: At the weekend a court ruled that the former ruling party, the National Democratic Party, was to be dissolved. What is that going to mean?

ASHRAF HEGAZY: Honestly, it is not going to mean a whole lot. I think we will see members of the party start their own new, smaller parties but a lot of the original members will still be active in politics and many of them do have support in their local area so I think you will see, certainly some of the old parliamentarians come back in the next election. They will just be running under a different banner than that of the NDP.

EMILY BOURKE: And what's the status of the opposition parties?

ASHRAF HEGAZY: Well, there are several opposition parties and they are being, there are new ones being created every day and I think because the whole political system is so new and there hasn't really been effective political organising in the past because it wasn't allowed by the government, I think it will be a while before we see which parties are going to emerge as the stronger ones and which may be too weak or end up being taken over by bigger parties or just fail altogether.

EMILY BOURKE: The former prime minister, the former finance minister are now facing corruption charges. How are those prosecutions likely to unfold?

ASHRAF HEGAZY: Well, one big challenge right now is that because there is no constitution the legal system is not fully established and the supreme court for example doesn't really have a constitution it can use to provide full oversight of the law and therefore of any of these trials. So I think we'll see the trials probably start before parliament, parliamentary elections but honestly, it will be very hard to have credible legal system until parliament is in place, until the new constitution is created and adopted and then that becomes the basis for oversight of the legal system.

EMILY BOURKE: That's the executive director of The Dubai Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School, Ashraf Hegazy.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Bourke, Emily. "Egypt's military 'frustrated' by protesters, demands." ABC News, The World Today, April 18, 2011.

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