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The second anniversary of Egypt’s revolution of 25 January 2011 is now upon us. I detect little sense of celebration in the public mood. Not because Egyptians reject the revolution itself, but because so many of the hopes it engendered have not been fulfilled.
For the great mass of Egyptians this applies especially to their hopes of better economic conditions, above all in jobs and pay. There is still passionate attachment to the revolution’s gift of freedom, above all freedom from fear of the state, and the freedom to say what you want.
There is a great sense of potential and benefit yet to be achieved. And everybody wants justice to be done. But the hardship for many is hurting.
The weight of these expectations has in many cases proved too great for the inherited structures of state, despite the great efforts of some reformists. Disillusion has set in, leaving the way open to some extremists to exploit through violence.
The image that comes to my mind is one of a marathon runner – one who thought he had entered a 200 metre race, but who found he had to keep going much longer – reaching a milestone on his way. He is not quite sure what the milestone represents – is it half way?
He is not quite sure whether the uphill stretch ahead leading to the parliamentary elections will then turn into a nice gentle downhill route, with the finishing line of the democratic transition and good governance is in sight. Or whether more uphill stretches, leading out of sight into the distance, will come into view.
His legs are killing him. But he knows that if he doesn’t run on now he will be lost when the night comes. Whatever happens, he has to find new strength to go on.
Marathon running, I am told, is part physical endurance and part willpower, with both parts critical to success. All that supporters and well-wishers like me can do, as we cheer from the edge of the route, offering energy drinks labelled “IMF loan”, “EU assistance” and “investment”, is to urge all Egyptians to show their courage and to finish the race, and to gain that prize called true democracy and social justice.