Thousands of angry protesters marched in Cairo on Thursday, blaming Egypt's military for a riot in a soccer stadium that left 74 people dead. The military-backed government promised a full investigation, and the local police chief and the governor of Port Said province on the Mediterranean coast, where the tragedy occurred, resigned. But angry members of Egypt's new parliament accused the military of allowing the violence to unfold unchecked to justify tightening the military's hold on the country. Could this really thwart Egypt's movement toward democracy?
This really threatens the revolution: "This tragedy is not simply a story of a match gone horribly awry," says James M. Dorsey at Foreign Policy. These "militant, highly politicized, violence-prone fan groups" (known as "ultras") who've been blamed for the bloodshed have also clashed with security forces. Now the generals can crack down and solidify their own power, and this time a protest-weary population "will be with them."
The army should be careful what it wishes for: "The army's tricks — if this is what we are observing — come at a risk," says Victor Kotsev at Asia Times. The tragedy is only intensifying opposition to military rule, and "if the regime ends up absorbing some of the blame for the disaster, it stands to lose more than it could possibly gain." With Egypt's economy tanking and its people seething, the generals would be better off transferring power quickly, and letting the Muslim Brotherhood majority in parliament clean up this mess.
"Egypt caught in spiral of disaster"
The significance of the outburst is being overblown: The conspiracy theory "seems far-fetched," says Wyre Davies at BBC News. The more plausible explanation is simply "that poorly paid and poorly trained riot police failed to keep apart two sets of football fans with a history of violence and mutual hatred." But this still does not bode well for the revolution. The world expected Egyptians to come together after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, "but the reality is that Egypt is still a country in turmoil."
"Egypt football riot: Port Said officials sacked"