The army is presenting itself as taking a strong hand against criminals and thugs, and that resonates with people, but historically this is exactly the kind of rhetoric Mubarak’s police state depended on. We need a shift from whoever is governing the country towards the strict application of the rule of law, and that hasn’t happened extensively yet.
On certain points there has been progress but the picture is always mixed. The interim government, for example, has allowed the formation of independent trade unions but at the same time we’ve seen a draft law banning strikes and protests, which is very problematic. There’s also been a liberalisation of the political parties law, allowing new parties to be created, and that freedom of association is an essential prerequisite to fair elections later this year. But for elections to take place you also need an environment which respects freedom of assembly and freedom of expression; the draft law contravenes that freedom of assembly, and when it comes to freedom of expression the military has been setting red lines regarding what is acceptable criticism of the country’s current rulers and what isn’t.