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CAIRO – "Bashar should abandon power and retire safely in Egypt. The general-prosecutor is murder-friendly," a friend, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, told me as we watched former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's trial in the Police Academy's criminal court. Although Mubarak and his interior (security) minister, Habib al-Adly, were handed life sentences at the conclusion of their trials, the generals who ran Egypt's apparatus of repression as deputy interior ministers were acquitted.

Hasan Abd al-Rahman, head of the notorious, Stasi-like State Security Investigations (SSI); Ahmad Ramzi, head of the Central Security Forces (CSF); Adly Fayyid, the head of Public Security; Ismail al-Shaer, who led the Cairo Security Directorate (CSD); Osama Youssef, the head of the Giza Security Directorate; and Omar Faramawy, who oversaw of the 6th of October Security Directorate, were all cleared of any wrongdoing. Lawyers for Mubarak and al-Adly will appeal their life-sentences, and many Egyptians believe that they will receive lighter sentences.

The verdicts sent an unmistakable message, one with serious consequences for Egypt's political transition. A spontaneous cry was heard from the lawyers and the families of victims when they were announced: "The people want to cleanse the judiciary."

CAIRO – Everything about Egypt's revolution has been unexpected, and the first-round results in the country's first-ever competitive presidential election are no different. The rise of former President Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister, General Ahmad Shafiq, who will enter the presidential runoff alongside the Muslim Brothers (MB) candidate Mohamed Morsi, has raised eyebrows across the political spectrum. So did the meteoric rise of the Nasserist candidate Hamdin Sabbahi to third place, and the fourth-place finish of Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who was backed by liberals and hardline Salafi Islamists alike.

Egypt's voters overwhelmingly chose the revolution over the old regime, and shattered the myth that the push for change is an urban, middle-class, Cairo-based phenomenon: the eight revolutionary candidates received more than 16.4 million votes. But their failure to unite on a single platform directly benefited Shafiq, who unexpectedly won 5.9 million votes (assuming no election-rigging).

Shafiq's success shocked many revolutionaries. "He is a murderer. His place is in jail, not on top of Egypt after the revolution," said one activist. Indeed, Shafiq has been linked to multiple cases of corruption and repression, including the "battle of the camels" on February 2, 2011, when Mubarak's henchmen attacked Tahrir Square, killing and wounding protesters.

CAIRO – "Whatever the majority in the People's Assembly, they are very welcome, because they won't have the ability to impose anything that the people don't want." Thus declared General Mukhtar al-Mulla, a member of Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

Al-Mulla's message was that the Islamists' victory in Egypt's recent election gives them neither executive power nor control of the framing of a new constitution. But General Sami Anan, Chief of Staff and the SCAF's deputy head, quickly countered that al-Mulla's statement does not necessarily represent the official views of the Council.

So, one year after the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, who, exactly, will set Egypt's political direction?

The electoral victory of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing and the Salafi parties, which together won more than 70% of the parliamentary seats, will give them strong influence over the transitional period and in drafting the constitution. But they are not alone. Aside from the Islamists, two other powerful actors will have their say: the "Tahrirists" and the generals.

مضت سنة على حلول ما يُسمّى بالربيع العربي الذي فاجأ الكثيرين، فقلّ من كان يتوقّع أن تنطلق أوّل انتفاضة في العالم العربي تدكّ صرح الاستبداد وتهزّ أركان الفساد، من تونس الخضراء. فالنظام التونسي كان يظهر أو يتظاهر بالاستدامة، وكان، بآلته الدعائية وأزلامه ووسطائه، يقدّم نفسه كنظام تقدّمي يحمي حقوق المواطنين، والمواطنات على وجه الخصوص، ويحول دون تسلّط "الظلاميين" على رقابهم، وكان، بأرقامه المزوّرة، يسوّق نفسه للعالم كمعجزة شمال أفريقية الاقتصادية. فصفّقت جميع الأنظمة، غربية وعربية، لزين العابدين وأثنت على مناقبه وصلّت عليه وعلى آله، ووصل الأمر برئيس الحكومة الجزائري الحالي إلى التصريح بأنه يعتبر النموذج التونسي قدوة له. وجرى كل ذلك في جوّ من التعتيم على الوجه الآخر الكئيب لتونس وشعبها، المتمثل في شدة القمع البوليسي وحبس أنفاس المواطنين وتفشي الفساد والتسلّط على مقدرات الشعب من طرف أسرة انفردت بمقاليد الحكم. كما كانت انتفاضة الشعب التونسي مفاجِئة لأنّ طول أمد الطغيان في هذا البلد أوحى للبعض أنّ التونسيين تأقلموا معه وتعوّدوا عليه وقبِلوه ورضوا به وركنوا إليه، فجاءت "ثورة الحرية والكرامة" لتفنّد الانطباع السائد، وها نحن اليوم نشهد أوّل ثمارها متمثّلة في قيام الجمهورية التونسية الجديدة، جمهورية العزّة والرفاهة، فهنيئا للتونسيين بنصرهم المجيد وتحرّرهم الواعد.

CAIRO – "We want democracy, but one constrained by God's laws. Ruling without God's laws is infidelity," Yasser Burhami, the second leading figure in the Salafi Call Society (SCS) and its most charismatic leader, recently said. The unexpected rise of the Salafis in Egypt's parliamentary election has fueled concern that the most populous Sunni Arab country could be on its way to becoming a fundamentalist theocracy akin to Shia Iran.

Known for its social ultra-conservatism, literal and strict interpretation of Islam, and potential exclusion of the ideological and religious "other," the Salafi "Coalition for Egypt," otherwise known as the Islamic Coalition, won a total of 34 seats in the parliament elected to draft Egypt's new constitution. This is in addition to the 78 seats won by the Democratic Coalition, led by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).

Of the 168 contested seats, Islamists have secured 112 or 66.6%. Although it is still early to determine the final outcome, which will be determined on January 11, the coming rounds are unlikely to veer from the early voting patterns. Governorates considered to be traditional strongholds of Islamists will be voting in the second round (like al-Sharqiya and Suez) and in the third round (like Matruh and Qalyubiyah).