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From the beginning, the council sent signals that it didn’t intend to go away for the sake of democracy. Since the spring, there have been intermittent protests against the military’s clampdown, sometimes drawing tens of thousands. It has kept the Mubarak-era emergency powers in place and has prosecuted over 12,000 people in military tribunals. Those arrested including bloggers who criticize the military, activists putting up posters about rallies and journalists breaking embarrassing stories about the council. Three journalists were released after they agreed not to publish anymore reports about the military without its clearance. There is now outrage over the arrest of Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a prominent blogger, for allegedly inciting violence.
On foreign policy, the military council is not nearly as bad for the West as the Muslim Brotherhood would be, but it isn’t as friendly as Mubarak was either. It has opened the border crossing with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and is reaching out to Iran. The military has also declined to protest the Coptic Christian minority and has even taken part in the persecution.
Tantawi has reacted to the people’s negative reaction to the military council’s power grabs by saying the measures are only short-term. He claims that “the armed forces have no interest in staying in power for a long time” but it “will not leave Egypt until we have fulfilled all we promised and do our duty towards the people.”
The military council has promised that it will not have a candidate run in the presidential race. Tantawi says it is sticking by that pledge and he will not run. Mysteriously, posters promoting Tantawi as a presidential candidate are appearing up in public places. Declared presidential candidates are demanding that the election take place as early as April, while the military council is scheduling it for late 2012 or early 2013.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists will perform well in the elections for the lower house of parliament on November 28 and may even take a majority. But their victory will mean almost nothing if it doesn’t result in real legislative power. And if the military council has its way, that’s exactly what will happen. For Egypt, the Arab Spring has brought just more of the same.
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