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Egypt … the time difference - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Egyptian regime’s delay in making decisions with regards to the crisis in Egypt is a puzzling matter. Some might use the phrase “better late than never”, but this is not true when dealing with crises that threaten the existence of the state. Timing, when dealing with political crises, is sometimes no less important than timing with regards to the taking off and landing of an airplane; where life and death are separated by minutes.

There were signs of an impending crisis in Egypt since the Tunisian uprising; however the official response was that this was “nonsense.” When the youth came out to protest, raising slogans of “dignity…freedom…social justice”, the [official] response to this was for the former Egyptian Prime Minister to come out and warn of “rapid and forceful intervention by the police.” As the “Day of Rage” demonstrations began to loom on the horizon, somebody from the [Egyptian] ruling party came out and said “demonstrations are not something new, and there is nothing new in about a [general] strike.”

Then the “Day of Rage” took place and shook the whole of Egypt. The President came out to address his people, and announced that he had asked his government to resign, which was also a move that came too late. Following this, a puzzling event occurred that saw the police disappear from Egypt’s streets, prisoners were able to escape from prison, and Egypt wreaked havoc upon itself in an unprecedented manner. The demands of the protestors also increased, as did international pressure [on the regime], and the Egyptian President appeared once more, this time to announce the appointing of General Omar Suleiman as his vice president. The protestors’ demands became even greater in terms of challenging [previous] election results and calling for constitutional amendments whilst the regime’s delay [in taking decisions] only served to further complicate mattes. General Omar Suleiman then announced that the president had tasked him with conducting dialogue with all parties and discussing the constitutional amendments; it seemed that Mubarak had responded to the demands of the people, however the situation on the ground escalated and the demands of the protestors continued to increase, all the while the regime continued to be slow to react.

Following this, the president came out and gave his famous speech in which he announced that he did not intend to stand at the next presidential elections. It seemed that this was an effective speech, and the Egyptian and Arab public heaved a sigh of relief and believed that the crisis was beginning to thaw, until the next astonishing crisis took place, namely Tahrir Square’s Battle of the Camel, and following this the protestors began demanding the head of the regime!

The above report [of the events in Egypt] shows us how the regime’s delay in making decisions exacerbated the crisis, which is one that could have been avoided, not just to preserve certain figures, but to preserve Egypt as a whole. General Omar Suleiman yesterday announced nothing more than the formation of a constitutional committee that is charged with looking at constitutional amendments, this is comprised of [opposition] figures that the youth have previously called on [to be involved in such talks]. Omar Suleiman also announced a “road map” for a peaceful transition of power, something that the youth also previously called for.

We are saying this because Egypt is more important than any figure or name, and it is far too great a country to be lectured by figures like Hassan Nasrallah, especially as the demands put forward by the youth are genuine and have strong support, contrary to the manner that Egyptian official media has been describing the situation. The official Egyptian media itself has begun to change, although this also has come too late, and we are now seeing the [Egyptian] Al-Ahram newspaper publishing a special supplement for the youth that is being distributed for free in Tahrir Square. The demands of the youth are genuine, and the people of Egypt well know the nature of their country and society. This is confirmed by something that President Mubarak himself said in 2005 in an interview with Al –Arabiya’s Saad al-Silawi who asked him about his intentions to continue in office, and President Mubarak answered in Egyptian dialect saying “this is [depending on] the will of the people…if the people don’t want you, what can you do?”

Therefore, what I want to say here is that taking good decisions at the wrong time is extremely dangerous, both for Egypt and its people.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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