Facing rising unrest, Egypt's military leaders vowed on Tuesday that they would speed the transition to democracy. Despite many doubters, the junta said it would go ahead with next week's parliamentary elections, a key demand of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which is expected to win big. But the junta refused to bow to protesters who are braving a deadly crackdown to demand an immediate transfer of power. The military is promising a new constitution and presidential elections by June 2012 — a year earlier than previously planned — but until then, Egypt will remain under what is essentially martial law. Is there really any hope that this bloody process will result in a lasting democracy?
Egypt is off to a bad start: If the military junta changes its mind and postpones next week's parliamentary elections, "it risks the ire of both the Islamists and the international community," says Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy. It certainly "would come under justifiable suspicion of having manufactured the events in order to torpedo the electoral process." But it's "equally almost impossible to imagine orderly, legitimate elections under these conditions." Simply put, democracy has no chance until the military hands power to civilians.
"Cairo jumps the rails"
And there's no end in sight: The generals let their entire cabinet resign, says Tony Karon at TIME. That's an old trick that has been used to mollify protesters before. But the military is clearly "improvising, with no clear strategy." Even if the elections do go ahead next week, "they will not be the denouement of Egypt's revolution. At best, they will simply mark a milestone in what promises to be a protracted battle for power."
"Egypt bleeds as the battle over democracy and power escalates"
But Egyptians won't back down: "Emboldened by their successful revolution nine months ago, ordinary Egyptians are no longer prepared to tolerate the behavior of their leaders," says David Blair at Britain's Telegraph. But judging by the "malign incompetence" of generals' deadly efforts to silence the protesters, Egypt's current leaders don't get it. It's time they wised up. You can't reverse this revolution — the days when Egypt's rulers could ignore the will of the people are over.
"Will Egypt's generals listen to Cairo protesters now?"