Will the Military Support or Turn on the People?
From the beginning of the crisis the armed forces have said they are on the streets to protect the people and have reiterated their commitment to protect the nation. The army claims to be a neutral force and there has generally been cooperation between them and the protestors. However, Vice President Omar Suleiman and the Prime Minister have a military background and also have a good relation with Mubarak and it is believed that this relation will determine how the army deals with the protestors.
Vice President Suleimen has said that the protestors should go home and this can be taken as a threat. The protestors made the mistake of thinking Mubarak would step down on Thursday evening which resulted in rage on the streets, and likewise it is believed they will be making a mistake to assume that the friendly attitude of the army at the outset will continue indefinitely.
The use of torture is an endemic problem in Egypt and is one of the main issues that continue to bring crowds to the streets. Torture is usually associated with state security forces but the military has also acted brutally in some cases with pro-democracy protestors.
At the moment, no one in Egypt has a formula to move away from an authoritarian regime. This situation is becoming a dangerous stand off as the regime is not prepared to concede to the protestors’ desire for Mubarak to leave. There are no leaders of this revolution, and without leaders the demonstrations do not have fresh perspective of how to manage the protests and at which point the protestors should acknowledge the changes that have been made and act accordingly.
As patience begins to run out on the part of the president and the vice president, it would be foolish of the regime to turn the army onto the people because of the chaos that would ensue. It would also be equally foolish of the protestors to believe that the army will remain neutral indefinately.