- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In the eight months since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's ruling military has postponed presidential elections, extended a controversial emergency law, cracked down on peaceful demonstrators and arrested critics.

Pro-democracy activists and Middle East analysts worry that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is reversing a revolution that toppled the autocratic Mubarak regime after 30 years in power.

“We, the revolution, are not governing Egypt now,” said Ahmed Maher, co-founder of the April 6 Youth Movement, a Facebook group, and a prominent participant in the anti-Mubarak demonstrations

“The SCAF is governing Egypt. I think they want to keep the power, and they want to make a new regime … depending on the same behavior of the Mubarak regime,” Mr. Maher told the Arab American Institute on a visit to Washington last week.

The ruling council has accused Mr. Maher’s group of being foreign agents.

** FILE ** In this photo from Sept. 24, 2011, Egyptian riot police line up to separate pro-Mubarak supporters and the families of the slain protesters during the trial session of ousted president Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. Thousands of Egyptian police launched a nationwide strike on Monday to demand better salaries and a purge of former regime officials from senior security posts. (Associated Press)
** FILE ** In this photo from Sept. 24, 2011, Egyptian riot ... more >

“The SCAF has made a number of very troubling moves that suggest it is not serious about giving up power,” Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Institution’s center in Doha, Qatar, said in a phone interview with The Times.

“It has become so clear as to be entirely self-evident that the SCAF is an autocratic force and, in my view, the foremost danger to Egyptian democracy right now.”

When it came to power in February, the military advertised its role as purely transitional. It promised elections and a transition to democracy within six months. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for Nov. 28, but the military has delayed a presidential vote until 2013.

The Egyptian military was a crucial part of the Mubarak regime. Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who leads the military council and is also commander of the armed forces, served as Mr. Mubarak’s defense minister. He is considered Egypt’s de facto interim president.

The Egyptian military has never been interested in forging a democratic political system along the lines that people were demanding in demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, said Steven A. Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations.

“They may seek to upgrade some of the quasi- or pseudo-democratic practices that have been part of Egypt’s political system, but a transition to democracy harms the interests of the military, which is to remain the repository of the state’s legitimacy and to hold on to their economic activities,” said Mr. Cook, the author of “The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square.”

The Egyptian Embassy in Washington declined to respond to a list of questions from The Times.

Police reform was another key demand of the protesters. However, torture, illegal detentions and violations of detainees’ rights continue, human rights and pro-democracy activists say.

“At this point, eight months later, the momentum for general reform within the government is now over,” Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch said in a phone interview from Cairo.

“There was a change in the leader at the top, and beyond that there hasn’t been any change. The same practices we saw under the Mubarak regime continue,” she added.

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