Egyptians take new steps on the painful road towards democracy

Posted Apr 6, 2010 by R. C. Camphausen
Egyptian police violently beat and randomly detained men and women today who protested against the one-party Mubarak government. The demonstrators demand both a constitutional reform and an end to the continuous use of old Emergency Laws.
Egypt on April 6  2010
Egypt on April 6, 2010
YouTube video capture
With the recent arrival in Egypt of Mohamed El-Baradei, previously the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), both people in the streets and the ruling government have come to realize that there seems to be a viable alternative to President Hosni Mubarak and his National Democratic Party (NDP).
Despite its name, that party has shown over the years that democracy is not what they have in mind for Egypt, and today's situation across the country has shown that once more. On the second anniversary of the April 6 protests in 2008, so reports the Egyptian website Bikya Masr, "downtown Cairo was packed with uniformed and plainclothes security officials."
Today, protesters were out in force mainly because they want a change of the constitution, which at present bars El-Baradei from running for office. NDP leaders, however, have made it abundantly clear that their agenda does not include plans to amend the constitution. Neither are they in a mood to listen to the people in the street, and at least 80 protesters were detained today, among which Amnesty International activist Ahmed Maged. A new tactic was also employed by police in that they had female officers who chased female demonstrators, often beating them - once even breaking the arm of a woman in the process.
The website Global Voices has a very detailed eye-witness account of what happened in the streets of Egypt's cities today, while the Cairo based Al Ahram Weekly contains a well written article on the political dynamics in Egypt, focusing on the role of Mohamed El-Baradei who is perhaps the world's best known Egyptian. At present, El-Baradai is trying to find as broad a coalition as possible who will help to realize the democratic vision outlined in his manifesto for political reform, branded as Together for Change.
Under the old Emergency Law from 1967, only once rescinded for a period of 18 months, people can't gather freely - it allows the police to arrest and beat anyone who does.