News / Middle East

Egyptians Stage March Protesting ‘Soft Military Coup’

Egyptians march toward Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, June 15, 2012.Egyptians march toward Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, June 15, 2012.
x
Egyptians march toward Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, June 15, 2012.
Egyptians march toward Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, June 15, 2012.
TEXT SIZE - +
Stephanie Figgins
A small but passionate crowd of around 2,000 Egyptians marched Friday to Cairo’s Tahrir Square to express dissatisfaction with the two court rulings issued the day before dissolving the recently elected parliament and declaring Mubarak era official Ahmed Shafiq’s presidential bid constitutional. The court’s decisions cleared the way for the ruling military council to take over the parliament’s legislative powers. Observers say the rulings also positioned the perceived military-favored candidate, Shafiq, to win the executive, and threw into question the independence of the judiciary.

Following afternoon prayers, members of pro-democracy movements, political parties, youth groups, and the campaign of former presidential contender and moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh gathered in the Cairo neighborhood of Mohandiseen to march together under the slogan “No to the soft military coup”.

Video of the march and protesters’ reactions by Davin Hutchins; follow @mevhutch

Protesters carried anti-Shafiq and anti-military signs, and chanted “Egypt is a country, not a barracks,” and “Shafiq is Mubarak.” Reflecting the outrage many Egyptians are feeling toward Shafiq - a symbol of the old regime, and now, for many a symbol of the failed transition process - demonstrators tore down Shafiq election posters, hit them with their shoes, then laid them out on the street so that cars and motorcycles would run over them.

Demonstrators demanded Shafiq’s disqualification from the presidential runoff election, and called for the creation of a presidential council to manage the affairs of the country - a last-ditch attempt to avoid the ‘lesser-of-two evils runoff,’ as it has been called by many Egyptians, between the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsi, and Hosni Mubarak’s former prime minister, Shafiq.

Sadeeqa Abu Saada lagged behind the march to stand on the median of a busy street, handing out flyers to passing cars that explained the need for a presidential council.  The flyer outlines a body made up of Hamdeen Sabbahi, the Nasserist who took third place in the first round, former presidential candidate Aboul Fotouh, socialist Abu Ezz el-Hariri, and Morsi - “just to have everyone involved,” she said.

Others passed around stickers for the so-called Mubatelun campaign, which calls on voters to invalidate their ballots during Saturday’s and Sunday’s election, under the logic that enough invalidations would undercut the legitimacy of the poll.

Images by Davin Hutchins & Yuli Weeks

One demonstrator, Ahmed, 25, said he believes that the runoff election proves that there has been no change in Egypt. “Even [U.S. Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton said on CNN that there was a revolution in Tunisia and Libya, and there is one now in Syria. But in Egypt and in Yemen, there have only been reforms. The regime is just as it always was,” he said.

“[The military council] thinks we’re idiots,” he added. “That when they change the person at the top, we’ll think there has been a regime change. But we’re not idiots.”

Ahmed, who said he had lost several friends to clashes with the police over the past 18 months, voted for Aboul Fotouh in the first round. This weekend, he said he would cast his vote for Morsi. He emphasized, “I’m not convinced with the elections. I think it will go to Shafiq. But I’ll do what I can by voting for Morsi.”

However, the outrage seemed to be confined to the small crowd of demonstrators - others were simply annoyed that the march was blocking traffic along the busy Qasr el-Nil bridge that connects Tahrir to Mohandiseen.

“Few people are on the streets because of the mass media,” explained Ahmed. “And the military controls the mass media here. It distorts our image to the people, tells them that we are thugs who want to rob the country.”

And the military has a powerful lever in its hands - security.

Since January 28 of last year, the notorious day on which the police forces retreated from the streets, every day Egyptians have been craving security in a way almost nostalgic for the days under the heavy-handed Mubarak regime. Shafiq, who markets himself as the law-and-order candidate, plays well into those fears and desires, many observers note.

Another demonstrator, Sadeeqa Abu Saada, attributed the rather small turnout to sheer exhaustion. “A lot of people share our feeling of rage,” she said. “But remember that it’s been almost two years. We’ve been out on the streets, many people have been hurt. So, some people are saving their energy for when they are sure -like when [the election results] are forged and Shafiq comes to power.”

Despite the rationalizations for the low turnout that were given - the biased media, the lack of security, and exhaustion - the march called into question the usefulness of activists’ continued use of street politics to try to change the course of institutional politics.

Abu Saada, who voted in the first round for leftist candidate Khaled Ali, who garnered just half of one percent of the vote, now says she believes the electoral process is rigged in the military’s favor. “I’m here because it’s all a farce,” she said. “The military will put Shafiq in power.”

For the runoff, she intends to invalidate her vote but not immediately. She says she will wait until the second day of the runoff to go to the polls, concerned that ballot boxes unwatched overnight are vulnerable to tampering. “We don’t know what will happen during this dark night,” she said.

Another demonstrator, Um Mohamed, was dressed in a long, black veil with a cloth band tied around her head that read “Down with military rule.” Like the others, she was against Shafiq, who she believes represents a return to the old regime. She said she plans to vote for Morsi, arguing that “the Muslim Brotherhood has always been with us in the revolution.”

However, Abu Saada contested Brotherhood’s revolutionary credentials, calling them political opportunists who have aligned themselves with revolutionary forces when it was convenient, and abandoned them just as quickly.

“The choice they put you between - the tyrants of the military and the tyrants of extremism - this is not the Tahrir, the utopia that we lived in for 18 days and after,” she said, referring to the turbulent beginnings of Egypt’s popular uprising.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid