All the possibilities and problems of Egypt’s revolution have been plain to see in Tahrir Square this week.
Millions returned to the streets across Egypt over the verdict in the trial of former dictator Hosni Mubarak.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of protesters during the revolution. But the Mubarak family was found not guilty of corruption—an obscene verdict on decades of crime.
And police responsible for the deaths of hundreds of activists went unpunished.
People wanted to express their fury at the court decisions.
In Cairo and cities across Egypt the revolution has entered a new phase. The people have taken back the streets—just at the moment when the generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) thought they had succeeded in stalling the movement for change.
Last week’s results in round one of the presidential election produced a run-off between Scaf’s candidate Ahmed Shafiq and Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
This will take place on 16 and 17 June, when the generals hope to organise a “democratic” victory for Shafiq—in effect a restoration of the Mubarak presidency.
There are many allegations that Shafiq’s vote was a fix. Demonstrators were already gathering to express opposition to the election results when the trial verdicts unleashed an explosion of anger and huge demonstrations.
As Tahrir filled on Saturday, the candidate of the left, Hamdeen Sabbahi, appeared in the square.
Sabbahi had come third in round one of the elections after gaining a huge vote in Egypt’s cities. In an electric atmosphere the crowd declared, “The president is here!”
For the first time since the revolution began in January 2011, the mass movement has nominated a leader. Sabbahi is seen is a man prepared to stand with and for the people.
His votes came overwhelmingly from workers and the urban poor—the same people now in occupation of city squares across Egypt.
There is widespread distrust of Mursi and of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has shown its eagerness to strike deals with the military regime.
But many activists are prepared to vote for Mursi in the runoff against Shafiq, who has issued chilling warnings that he will use full force against the revolutionary movement.
The left has proposed a presidential council in which Mursi would work together with Sabbahi and the liberal Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, who came fourth.
They have also called for Mursi and the others to insist on a re-trial for the Mubarak family and the six senior police acquitted last week.
Activists have declared a Week of Rage, with marches from the homes of martyrs of the revolution—those murdered by police, troops and thugs.
As people pour into the streets one slogan is repeated: “We are never going back”—to the old regime.
These latest events in the revolutionary process mix anger and hope. They are an expression of disgust—and a celebration of people’s power.
The masses insist that their revolution cannot be stolen. With Scaf determined to see its man in the presidential palace, and a return to the status quo, the people will need all their resolve.