Time starting to heal old wounds of Mubarak regime

By Jin Liangxiang Source:Global Times Published: 2013-1-24 19:43:00


Illustration: Liu Rui
Illustration: Liu Rui

Friday marks the two-year anniversary of Egypt's revolution that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak. Two years ago, when Mubarak was removed from power, it was seen as a clear sign that Egypt was making a clean break from its past. But two years after the revolution, the country is still dealing with the legacy of the old era.

Earlier this month, an Egyptian court ordered a retrial for Mubarak and his security aide. This latest development will add new variables to Egypt's turbulent political transformation, but the implications will be modest.

In June 2012, the Cairo Criminal Court held that Mubarak and his aides were responsible for the killing of protesters in the demonstrations that eventually led to the demise of his regime. It almost closed the old chapter of Egyptian history, though neither side was satisfied with the sentence. Mubarak's supporters held that a life sentence was too harsh, while his opponents had expected the death penalty.

The latest announcement of Mubarak's retrial cheered both sides, albeit for opposite reasons. Mubarak's supporters see a chance for a lighter sentence, while his opponents see a chance of having Mubarak put to death.

Predictions can seldom be accurate, but it is certain that the evolution of domestic politics and the social psychology will be critical to the final judgment. Despite strong opposition from his arch-opponents, the general political atmosphere will be in favor of Mubarak.

The two years since his forced resignation may have been enough to bring changes in Egyptian politics and the social psychology. It has become Egyptians' top political priority to check the power of newly elected President Muhammad Morsi and safeguard the secular nature of Egyptian society, while two years ago, people from all walks of life were united in the same revolutionary purpose.

The Mubarak issue was central to the destruction of the old regime, but no longer essential in the construction of the new order. Seven months ago, when Mubarak's life sentence was announced, many felt disappointed as they expected a more serious punishment.

But things seem to have changed greatly. Average Egyptians reacted very calmly to the announcement of Mubarak's retrial half a year later. Revolutionary anger and passion have been somewhat replaced with more sober retrospection.

After all, Mubarak's fate is relevant neither to people's employment opportunities and incomes nor their future political rights. And time has washed away some of the hatred, though it remains deep among some.

For quite a number of Egyptians, sympathy for an old man of 84 in poor health has taken the place of hatred.  Some have even been nostalgic of the Mubarak era, when they could live stable and secure lives despite the difficulties.

The two kinds of mindsets, hatred and sympathy, will interact with each other in the run-up to the retrial. It seems that forgiveness will grow, but not necessarily prevail.

But this does not mean that everybody will accept the outcome peacefully. By opening up old wounds, the retrial will witness a new round of clashes between Mubarak's supporters and opponents. Victory for one side will mean defeat for the other.

If a lighter sentence is announced, or the original sentence upheld, which is highly likely, Mubarak's opponents are expected to take to the streets. If not, Mubarak's supporters will launch another protest.

The potential conflict will pose another severe challenge to Muhammad Morsi and to Egypt's political reconstruction. Morsi has already come under pressure for his attempt to strengthen presidential power and Islamicize the nation.

The potential conflicts will take place primarily between the two rival camps, thus endangering the already vulnerable security situation and interrupting the current political agendas. And it is almost certain that both sides will pour their anger on the incumbent government.

Worthy of mention is that though the retrial might cause another round of upheavals, its implications will be limited.

The revolution, together with Mubarak's ailing health, has already meant an end to his political life. News such as his retrial may be eye-catching, but will have very little political significance.

Anyway, Mubarak is an old man whose days are numbered. Movements seeking more serious punishment will gradually lose legitimacy, and support for such movements will also lose momentum.

The author is a research fellow with the Shanghai Institute for International Studies. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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