In time the reasons why the Egyptian uprising took place and the reasons for its success will appear ever clearer and perhaps some elements will jump out that we cannot discern now. Civil disobedience could be traced back, ironically, to the period from 2003 to 2005 when the Bush administration pressured governments in the region to take some steps, however slight or meaningless, towards “democratization”. Mubarak himself ordered constitutional amendments that would allow competitors to challenge him at the ballot box for the first time in the presidential election of 2005; Saudi Arabia allowed men to vote for male candidates to half of the seats on municipal councils. They were indeed slim pickings. But opposition activists took advantage of the moment to begin a street protest movement aimed against the ascent of Mubarak’s son Gamal who his father had placed at the head of his National Democratic Party’s policy committee, and that was widely seen as the prelude to installing Gamal one way or another as his father’s successor. The Kifaya movement endured police brutality in the streets and was not able to keep up the momentum itself, but it showed the public that it was possible to mobilize. The centre of activism largely shifted to labour movements in Mubarak’s final term in office, and 6 April 2008 stands out for the strikes over wages and conditions staged by textile workers in al-Mahalla al-Kubra which police met with brute force. That day led to the creation of the 6 April Youth Movement Facebook page, which became a vibrant forum for discussing political and economic rights.
During that time though, two events seemed to have hardened attitutes towards Mubarak’s regime. On foreign policy, Mubarak’s position on the Gaza war of December 2008 and January 2009 took Egypt’s Palestinian policy into new territory with a clearer alignment with Israeli positions than seen previously. Egypt’s opposition to Hamas rule in Gaza and closure of its border with the territory was extremely controversial in the Arab world and played badly on the leading Arab news Continue reading The Egyptian uprising in the balance