THE CURRENT regime has been in power for 23 years and continues to rule through the emergency laws.
This is a regime which rules through military courts, while between six and ten million people are unemployed. It has made this country a kind of hell—between two and three million people are living in the cemeteries of Cairo.
To add insult to injury, now the man at the top, Hosni Mubarak, wants to leave the state to his son, Gamal. This is exactly what has happened in most of the Arab regimes.
You’ve got Gadaffi in Libya who wants to pass on his job to his son. So does Abdallah Salih, president of Yemen. In Syria, the presidency was actually passed on to Bashar Asad from his father. On 12 December 2004 opposition activists from Nasserist groups, socialists and the Muslim Brotherhood organised a protest in Cairo against Mubarak. This is the first demonstration in Egypt for decades that has been openly against the ruling regime.
Parliamentary elections and a referendum to endorse the president are scheduled for late 2005. If you look back over the past three years, most of the demonstrations have been over Iraq and Palestine. In some cases, as a secondary issue, people have begun to talk about corruption and the state of emergency imposed in 1979 after the assassination of president Anwar Sadat.
The difference with the recent demonstration was that it started out by saying no to the head of state. This was the biggest protest since the demonstrations of 20 and 21 March 2003.”
Kamal Khalil is director of the Centre for Socialist Studies and a long-standing activist on the Egyptian left