Right after the fall of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali, I brushed away the thought that Egypt could have the same scenario for one reason: the army. In Tunisia, the army gave up Ben Ali so quickly after his police security apparatus crumbled under the vigor of the revolution. Egypt’s army is so interwoven in the regime. It is an inseparable part of the regime and enjoys vast privileges from it. They won’t give up Mubarak , I always said.
Well, I was partially wrong. Yes the Egyptian army tried as much as possible to keep its commander, but as the protests grew stronger, they became convinced they can’t maintain the country and Mubarak at the same time. Someone had to go. And they thankfully chose Mubarak.
The army’s role was crucial in winning this revolution. And everyone in Egypt, me included, gives the army credit for maintaining security when the police force disappeared and for asking Mubarak to step down when the regime and the people were both heading towards a deadlock. However, the big question now is: what will the army do now? How will its relationship with the new emerging state be?
It is no secret the army enjoyed unbelievable benefits and privileges under Mubarak rule. He was sedated by the notion that Egyptians generally do not revolt against their ruler and thus the only party that can end his rule was the army. This is the reason why Mubarak made sure his top rank officers were happy.
It is no secret either that just as any institution in Egypt, the army is filled with corruption and theft. They are involved in vast businesses, many of them very successful and useful to the public, but at the end of the day, the army is part of the Egyptian regime and corruption was a way of life within that regime. Well, corruption is a way of life in all Egypt.
So now what will the army do? There is no doubt they will not do anything that might undermine the status and privileges they enjoyed under Mubarak
There are two scenarios. One, the army could wait until the revolution spirit tempers down and go around the demands of the people. This is very unlikely though. The genie is out of the bottle now and Tahrir square will always be nearby.
Two, the army will safeguard the country till some sort of a democratic system is established, but there will always be a hidden agreement between the army and the ruling elite that their status and benefits is a red line that cannot be crossed. We delivered this country to you, now you leave us alone or else.
We could be something like Turkey before the election of Recep Erdogan. The army co-existed with the democratic process there yet at various times intervened when the ruling class ventured into restricted areas.
It would be awesome if we managed to copy the Turkish model even if the army retained its untouchable status. Who knows, maybe one day our democracy will be strong enough to allow a lawmaker to stand in parliament and challenge the army whose corruption and status is expected to be with us for many years to come.