News / Middle East

Does Egypt Face a New Revolution?

Protesters opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi hold up documents from the "Tamarud" campaign during a news conference at their headquarters in Cairo, May 29, 2013.
Protesters opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi hold up documents from the "Tamarud" campaign during a news conference at their headquarters in Cairo, May 29, 2013.
Reuters
Millions hope so, it seems; they have signed a national petition demanding the president resign and plan to take to the streets on June 30, when Mohamed Morsi marks a year in office.
 
Their slogan is a call for revolt: “Tamarud - Rebel!”
 
But for all the simmering discontent with the Islamist who has presided over political and economic paralysis, millions more are ready to defend Egypt's first freely elected leader; they say those campaigning for him to quit are agents of the old regime and plan their own pro-Morsi rallies starting Friday.
 
A man signs a form for the pro-Morsi Tagarod (impartiality) campaign in Amr Bin Aaas mosque in Cairo, June 14, 2013. The campaign was started in response to counter the Tamarod (rebellion) petition started by anti-Morsi supporters to withdraw confidence in the president.A man signs a form for the pro-Morsi Tagarod (impartiality) campaign in Amr Bin Aaas mosque in Cairo, June 14, 2013. The campaign was started in response to counter the Tamarod (rebellion) petition started by anti-Morsi supporters to withdraw confidence in the president.
x
A man signs a form for the pro-Morsi Tagarod (impartiality) campaign in Amr Bin Aaas mosque in Cairo, June 14, 2013. The campaign was started in response to counter the Tamarod (rebellion) petition started by anti-Morsi supporters to withdraw confidence in the president.
A man signs a form for the pro-Morsi Tagarod (impartiality) campaign in Amr Bin Aaas mosque in Cairo, June 14, 2013. The campaign was started in response to counter the Tamarod (rebellion) petition started by anti-Morsi supporters to withdraw confidence in the president.
Their counter-campaign - “Tagarud” - calls for open minds.
 
There is a risk of more of the violence that has punctuated the two-and-a-half years since Hosni Mubarak was toppled by a blast of rage from Tahrir Square. “June 30” crops up endlessly in conversation. The Cairo bourse has shriveled in anticipation and security forces say they are preparing to deal with trouble.
 
“There is a strong chance of violence resulting from the coming protests,” said retired Egyptian general Sameh Seif al-Yazal, a military analyst. “It could start from any side.”
 
It is unclear what can end stalemate between the Islamists, whose organized electoral base has handed them the formal levers of power, and a diffuse opposition of liberals, Christians and secular conservatives united in fear of Islamic rule, plus a mass of the uncommitted fed up with economic drift under Morsi.
 
The “culture war” between elected Islamists and a secular opposition, with a once-political army in the background, has echoes of today's unrest in Turkey, but deep economic crisis and a still unformed political system makes Egypt much more fragile.
 
With world powers at odds over Syria, where Morsi has backed the Sunni Muslim revolt, and Washington funding an Egyptian army that honors Cairo's peace treaty with Israel, any instability in the most populous Arab state has implications far beyond.
 
The wealthy generals, once led by Mubarak but who sacrificed him to save themselves, have said they want no more political role. Islamists say it would mean civil war if the troops moved against them. Yet the army is still held in high regard by the vast majority and says it will intervene to maintain order.
 
However June 30 ends - and few will bet with confidence on the outcome - it will help determine whether the Arab Spring eventually blossoms, or withers - not just for 84 million Egyptians but for would-be democracies across the Middle East.
 
Unfinished Revolution

“This revolution is not over yet,” said Mohamed ElBaradei, a former top U.N. diplomat and one of the best known faces of Tamarud, whose keen young sidewalk volunteers say their petition is close to gathering more signatures for Morsi's - hypothetical - removal than the 13 million votes that elected him a year ago.
 
ElBaradei spoke at a two-week-old sit-in by artists at the Culture Ministry. It was prompted by the new minister firing the head of Cairo Opera and by fears of a new puritanism after an Islamist lawmaker called for a ban on ballet as “naked art”.
 
Such threats capture media headlines and ElBaradei said Islamist dominance must be stopped: “We ask every Egyptian to go out on the 30th, to free ourselves and reclaim our revolution.”
 
For the millions of poor, for whom the ballet ranks low on their priorities, it is an economy caught in a vice of collapsed tourist income, rising world commodity prices and a growing population dependent on subsidized bread and fuel that matters.
 
“We don't want Morsi. We want change,” said Umm Sultan, working with her son at the family juice stall in Cairo's Old City. “They must give us money so our children can live.”
 
Echoing fellow Islamists governing in Turkey, Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood insists he has a democratic mandate and warn that protest is permitted - “a healthy sign that this revolution has actually worked”, one aide called it - but must be peaceful.
 
Morsi himself says he will react “fiercely” to trouble from “felloul” - 'remnants' of Mubarak - and calls the petition, which has no legal weight, “an absurd and illegitimate action”.
 
There have been scuffles this month between groups gathering signatures; an apartment used by Tamarud was firebombed. A new test looms this Friday, when Islamists plan pro-Morsi rallies.
 
The heart of the problem is a failure to build consensus.
 
Protesters chant anti-Morsi and anti-Muslim Brotherhood slogans during a demonstration in Tahrir square, in Cairo. May 17, 2013.Protesters chant anti-Morsi and anti-Muslim Brotherhood slogans during a demonstration in Tahrir square, in Cairo. May 17, 2013.
x
Protesters chant anti-Morsi and anti-Muslim Brotherhood slogans during a demonstration in Tahrir square, in Cairo. May 17, 2013.
Protesters chant anti-Morsi and anti-Muslim Brotherhood slogans during a demonstration in Tahrir square, in Cairo. May 17, 2013.
With opponents in disarray, the Brotherhood and its allies won majorities in both houses of parliament and the presidency last year and rushed a constitution through a referendum. The opposition, partly backed by a judiciary the Islamists see as Mubarak holdovers, now reject most of those state institutions.
 
Elections for a new lower house that might provide a forum for national dialog are being held up by rows over the rules.
 
Anchoring his power in the provinces, Morsi named Islamists to run several governorates on Sunday, including one from a group whose gunmen massacred 58 foreigners in Luxor and will now head the administration in the temple city, a hub for tourism.
 
Deprived of broad popular support, the legislature and the executive have struggled to act decisively on the economy.
 
Islamists Warn Army
 
There seems little prospect the Tamarud petition will induce Morsi to resign - and even some liberal commentators say that might set an unwelcome precedent. Morsi's win seemed fair and a new presidential vote might produce a broadly similar result.
 
No opponent is clearly more popular than the bespectacled, bearded face crossed out with a red “X” on Tamarud's ubiquitous posters. Yet if the protest movement seems like a leap into the unknown, that is not deterring large numbers from joining it.
 
“Tamarud is a representative public reaction to the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi's failure to run the state,” said Hassan Nafaa, a Cairo University political scientist who says Morsi must resign for his “stupidity”. “It has left people no option but the streets and so they will come out - in large numbers.”
 
The president's allies will not give in so easily.
 
“If Morsi ends up being ousted by violence or a coup by the army or police, there will be an Islamic revolution,” said Al-Ghaddafi Abdel Razek, manager of the pro-Morsi Tagarud campaign.
 
“We have our people in the army and the police, too, and we are ready,” added Abdel Razek, 37, a pharmacist once jailed for his membership of al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, the militant group that tried to cripple Mubarak by attacking tourists in the 1990s.
 
Tagarud's gathering of seven million signatures urging Morsi to stay is also deeply personal.

“We know that if Morsi goes, we'll all be in prison,” Abdel Razak said.
 
Decision Time
 
Over at the opposition campaign, spokesman Mahmoud Badr is grappling with piles of signatures and ID numbers that need to be verified against databases if Tamarud is to make the case it hopes to the United Nations that its petition is genuine.
 
Even without international intervention, Badr argued, the weight of opinion could embarrass Morsi into stepping aside. Others say that at least it might push him to listen to them.
 
And after that? It may seem hypothetical now, but Badr and his team have a post-Morsi plan: the constitutional court chief would be interim head of state with a small technocrat cabinet.
 
For many, exasperated by power cuts, shortage of fuel and rising prices, a return to army rule would be welcome - though the military insists it wants no such responsibility. Its chief, appointed by Morsi, has urged “a framework for consensus”.
 
One military source told Reuters the army was ready for all eventualities after June 30 - “but we will not interfere unless the situation seems to be heading towards violent conflict”.
 
Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said troops will “defend the state and what is sacred to the people” - that, the source said, included their rights to protest.
 
As the rallies approach, Egyptians have decisions to make.
 
Ahmed Mahmoud, 30, a laborer from Alexandria is already in the capital to make his voice heard.

“I want to tell Morsi loud and clear he needs to go since he has failed to meet the demands of our revolution, for a better life and freedom,” he said.“We are tired and cannot take it any more. We want to live.”
 
But others, who fear yet more unrest can only plunge them deeper into poverty, are more patient. Mohamed Ali, 26, a waiter at a Cairo cafe, said Morsi should be given his chance: “We are new to democracy and we should give him time to work and learn.”

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Resolve Nuclear Deal Issues

Leaders find resolution on issues of liability of suppliers to India in event of nuclear accident, US demands to track whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid