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Trying to repair Egypt

Battle line: Soldiers and and protesters meet.

Battle line: Soldiers and and protesters meet.

CAIRO — Workers in blue overalls clamber over scaffolding around Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, whitewashing its charred walls to restore a semblance of normalcy to the corner of Cairo where the struggle for Egypt reached a bloody climax this month.

After a stunning reversal in which the army seized upon a tide of public discontent to overthrow freely elected President Mohamed Mursi, the powerful state apparatus appears to have all but neutralised the Muslim Brotherhood to which he belongs.

Not only that. Even as the army-backed government promises to shepherd Egypt towards democracy, its plans for a new political transition speak of a deep entrenchment of the old order that ran Egypt under veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

In the space of a few weeks, security forces have arrested the Brotherhood’s leaders and killed its supporters by the hundreds in the streets. Meanwhile, a committee appointed without debate has proposed constitutional amendments that would open the way for a political comeback by Mubarak-era officials.

The prospect of financial meltdown has been staved off by billions of dollars in aid from Gulf states hostile to the Brotherhood, and Western censure has been muted, at best.

In a highly symbolic victory for the old guard, the 85-year-old Mubarak was himself released from jail last week, albeit to await a retrial for ordering the killing of protesters in 2011.

Keen to show support for the army, Egyptians who may once have displayed pictures of Mubarak now celebrate Egypt’s new top soldier, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a hero to those who rallied against Brotherhood rule. One Sisi fan in Cairo is reportedly selling chocolate treats bearing the general’s image.

And in language that would have been unthinkable only a few weeks ago, a state-run magazine this week described the 2011 uprising that toppled Mubarak as a “setback”. (Reuters)

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