Egypt Polarized as 200,000 Tahrir demonstrators and Crowds in other Cities protest Morsi’s “Temporary Dictatorship”

On Wednesday morning, in the wake of a huge demonstration downtown Cairo, the crowds assembled in Tahrir Square faced tear gas barrages whenever they moved out of the center of the square. Some 36 persons were wounded in Port Said in clashes Wednesday between anti-government forces and the Muslim Brotherhood. The fight began when three Ultras (soccer fanatics) of the Green Eagle soccer club in the city were attacked when they passed near the Muslim Brotherhood HQ.

Liberals, leftists, nationalists, Muslims, Christians, trade unions, professionals, movie stars, lawyers and judges united on Tuesday throughout Egypt to deploy a whole range of protest techniques against last Thursday’s Executive Order of President Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, which put him above all judicial authority. Some clashes broke out with Morsi followers, and some 76 were injured.

The crowd at the downtown Tahrir Square was estimated by some newspapers at 200,000, among the largest demonstrations held since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February, 2011. It is worrisome that many in the crowd have started to demand ‘the fall of the regime’ and the ‘departure of Morsi.’ Since he is an elected leader, it would be undemocratic for him to be unseated by crowd action, and the danger that the Muslim Brotherhood might be radicalized by losing the fruits of both of its electoral victories is great.

The spokesman for the Egyptian military Pointedly underlined that the army is there to defend the interests of the nation and that its sole loyalty is to the people. He did not say anything about protecting the government, raising the question of where the army’s loyalty might lie if the political polarization worsens.

Performing artists had their own column in the march in Cairo.
Journalists and attorneys were organized by their guilds to participate. Even a group of judges marched, single file, into Tahrir Square. Cairo’s courts were closed and on strike for the third day running in protest against the insult of the president’s decree. A huge procession walked from the slum of Shubra to Tahrir Square Tuesday, joined by Muhammad Elbaradei (former head of the IAEA). About half of the densely packed population of Shubra is Christian, and as a working class district its parties include the Free Egyptians, the Social Democratic Egyptian Party, the Popular Coalition, and the Revolutionary Socialist Movement. Unfortunately, they are good at mobilizing for marches and rallies, but not good at winning elections. They insisted on the abrogation of Morsi’s Executive Order.

Among the demands of the protesters was that the Constituent Assembly writing the constitution be reconstituted. I had begun with 100 members, but 22 have withdrawn, along with 7 reserve members, and the remaining 78 are disproportionately loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood, raising fears that the constitution will be overly religious in character.

Reuters has a video report on Tuesday’s massive country-wide rallies:

There were similar demonstrations, some of them quite large, in other cities, including Alexandria, where crowds invaded the HQ of the FJP and tossed papers out the window. In the Delta city of Mansoura, 25 were hurt when an angry crowd set fire to part of the HQ of the Freedom and Justice Party, the civil wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. In al-Mahalla just north of Cairo, a working-class city of factories, 50 were injured in clashes between protesters and the Muslim Brotherhood. Euronews reports:

Morsi’s claim of extra-judicial power struck many Egyptians as a creeping dictatorship, and there are fears that the Brotherhood was plotting to bring back the dissolved parliament of fall, 2011, which was dominated by members of the Brotherhood party, Freedom and Justice, and by hard line Salafi fundamentalists. With the presidency and parliament and an established principle that both were beyond the authority of the judiciary, the Brotherhood could hope to rule Egypt as a virtual one-party state, succeeding the one-party dominance of Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic party.

9 Responses

  1. What might be the secret US interest be here? Ignore the happy talk about democracy. In that dark basement in Washington where the dirty work is planed, what do they want?

    Could it be that they want Morsi to be become a dictator like Mubarak? As a dictator he becomes more dependent on the military and hence more compliant to US wishes. As a true democratic leader the US would not be first among his constituents. Can we allow that?

    • “What might be the secret US interest be here? Ignore the happy talk about democracy. In that dark basement in Washington where the dirty work is planed, what do they want?”

      What a novel idea. President Morsi, the spear-bearer for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, is in reality a willing tool of Washington. And he is part and parcel of an evil plot hatched in a “dark basement in Washington where the dirty work is planned.” Oh my, one can almost hear the cackling of evil laughter in that dark basement, as Morsi and his Washington puppeteers fiendishly plot their nefarious moves to ensure his dictatorial powers are in place, in order to do Washington’s bidding.

      There are still people who believe the Earth is flat, as well, and there is actually a “Flat Earth Society” to accommodate them. They are no more deluded in their belief than those who ascribe to the above-cited quote regarding Morsi and the “dark basement” in Washington.

      • Curious, are the people in the “dark basement” and upstairs happy with the Arab Spring? Has it impacted negatively the old arrangement of compliant dictators, monarchs, and thuggish regimes? Do you think that those in the dark basement might be working to bring back the old happy days?

        When the Arab Spring started Washington did not seem all that pleased. Why is that?

        • Bill,

          Something happened. Therefore, it’s been a secret CIA plot all along to make that thing happen. If Morsi’s pharonic status is reversed, then that will become the secret CIA plot that the “secret people in dark basements” wanted all along.

          A month ago, these threads were full of conspiracy theorizing about how the Secret Men in Secret Basements were stifling the Muslim Brotherhood. It just never ends.

  2. ” the Brotherhood was plotting to bring back the dissolved parliament of fall, 2011″

    The parliament was elected Mr. Cole. What I see is that the secular forces have allied themselves with the Mubarksis and gulf money. The media in egypt is dominated by the secularist and or Mubarksis. The whole judicial court and the Bureaucracy is filled with Mubarak supporters since he handpicked the Judges himself. They worked and work against Mursi from them beginning while the secularist on the other Hand hypocritically complaining about the lack of speed in achieving the goals of the revolution. This is there Tactic in a nutshell.

  3. I’m willing to bet that Morsi was misled into making this decree. It seems like somebody told him things would go a lot more swimmingly than they are. I think this is an effort to sabotoge the Brotherhood’s legitimacy early before it gained more credibility. This isn’t Gaza, so hopefully they retain some legitimacy. There’s no way Egypt would tolerate a Caliphate though, so I think the concerns about Morsi intending to be a dictator are unfounded. I have a feeling these Presidential decrees are somehow tied to the Gaza peace deal. Maybe the peace deal was a carrot the US threw out if Morsi agreed to the decrees? The truth remains to be seen!

    • “There’s no way Egypt would tolerate a Caliphate though, so I think the concerns about Morsi intending to be a dictator are unfounded.”

      Isn’t this what people said about Iran back in the 1970′s? I remember talk that the Iranian people were more sophisticated than the Arabs, that they just wanted to throw-off the oppressive Shah.

      You may be correct that the majority in Egypt don’t want an intolerant, hardline state. But does the majority always prevail in revolutions?

      I don’t mean to be completely pessimistic. My point is thata nothing is predictable.

  4. Morsi’s error was that he trusted himself more than the people. What he needs to do is to use his smarts to figure out how to trust the people and keep the vibrant democracy on track.

  5. With disagreement about the new constitution, the natural thing would be (i) for the Islamists in the constitutional assembly to propose one majority option and (ii) for the secularists elected to the constitutional assembly to return to work and propose an alternative minority option. Then the two option can be put against each other in a referendum to let the people decide which one they prefer. That is how it should work in a democracy. I don’t understand why there has to be a single proposal from the constitutional assembly that the people then will have to vote yes/no on.

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