Egypt, the Arab Spring, and Myanmar.

Ousted Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak has been sentenced to a life in prison. His spectacular fall from modern-day pharaoh to prisoner has served as inspiration to many. Here are some of my thoughts on Egypt, the Arab Spring, and velvet revolutions in general.

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  1. In January last year, amid the continuing escalation of protests in Tunisia that sparked the Arab Spring, I made reference to an essay by Timothy Garton Ash on the nature of velvet revolutions in comparison with that of traditional revolutions. I came across the said essay through the blog of Manuel L. Quezon III, a foremost public intellectual in the Philippines.

    In this blog entry, I used Ash's thesis as a premise to my description of post-velvet transitions. Using Antonio Gramsci's theory of hegemonic culture, as modified and adapted to International Relations by Robert W. Cox, I attempted to explain the looming Marcos Restoration in the Philippines. 
  2. The Tunisian explosion was followed by the Egyptian revolution at Tahrir Square. The Egyptian uprising took more time than the usual week-long velvet revolutions. In trying to explain why this was so, I said that Tahrir was not a spontaneous revolution, or a People Power like Tunisia, but a negotiated one. Mubarak had lost, but not to the protesters or the Muslim Brotherhood, but to the military-intelligence clique whom Mubarak had alienated a year before by anointing his son Gamal. This clique, and the United States, were shaping the post-Mubarak transition.

    I also described the wide spectrum within the anti-Mubarak movement-- the hodgepodge coalition led by diplomat Mohammed El Baradei and the formidable Muslim Brotherhood-- and the Mubarak elite-- the Gamal faction and the military-intelligence clique led by General Omar Suleiman. These four political actors had been maneuvering for at least a year to define the post-Mubarak dispensation, but the overwhelming protests at the Tahrir tilted the balance towards only one of these four actors: the military-intelligence clique. The result of the Tahrir uprising would later confirm this.
  3. Finally, Mubarak was ousted and replaced by a council of generals. Manila's mainstream media hailed it as a People Power transition, but I wrote:  "While many Filipinos are pointing out the parallels between this week’s historic events in Egypt that culminated in the ouster of strongman Hosni Mubarak and the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution that ousted President Ferdinand Marcos, it must be noted that they are, in a very important way, opposites of each other: Edsa 1986 had seen a military coup that ignited a people power uprising; Tahrir 2011, on the other hand, saw a people power uprising sparking a military coup."
  4. Nine months later, protests against the slow pace of the reforms broke out. It was obvious that the council of generals were stalling democratization, and I argued that the United States had no choice but to support the generals.
  5. Meanwhile, writing about the election boycott by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar, I argued that velvet revolutions are not always the best way to democratization.
  6. Finally, six months ago, I wrote that apprehensions about China's imperialist intentions, among others, may have driven the ruling junta in Myanmar to institute democratic reforms. 
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