A Numbers Game


by Patrick Appel

Thanassis Cambanis reports on the protesters camped out in front of Egypt's parliament:

Organizers of Tahrir Square are playing a numbers game. If more people show up each time they call for a big crowd - as happened on Tuesday, which drew perhaps the greatest amount of people since it all began on January 25 - then the revolution advances. That's their gamble. Several of them said they believe that success required steady escalation. Tuesday, the parliament. Friday, perhaps the state television headquarters or a ministry. Sunday, the police headquarters. And so on. They are hoping to organize major days of action three times a week, a plan that hinges on drawing more and more people each time. So far, popular response has exceeded their expectations at each turn. That's no guarantee that the pattern will continue, or that the regime won't use incalculable brute force or brilliant political maneuvering to shift the power balance.

(Photo: Anti-government protesters shout slogans as they line up after spending the night in front of the Egyptian Parliament in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011. Around 2,000 protesters waved huge flags outside the parliament, several blocks from Tahrir Square, where they moved two days earlier in the movement's first expansion out of the square. Emilio Morenatti/AP)