Egyptian Left/Liberals Confront Pres. Morsi with Rallies, Demos in 8 Provinces

The New Left youth movements led a powerful charge against Thursday’s presidential decree by Muhammad Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood’s civil wing, the Freedom and Justice Party. Protests were held at some scale in 8 governorates.

The Egyptian religious Right (the Muslim Brotherhood) and the secular liberals and leftists had been allies in overthrowing Hosni Mubark in Jan.-Feb. 2011. That alliance frayed once the Brotherhood won the presidency last June, but the rhetoric of unity had continued. Morsi’s high-handed executive orders on Thursday has decisively split the religious and secular wings of the revolution, who now confront one another. Asma Mahfouz of April 6 tweeted that Morsi was taking the country to civil war. Even some figures on the religious right, such as Wael Ghoneim (formerly the head of Google in Egypt), broke with the Brotherhood over these decrees. Ghoneim was quoted as saying that “The revolution was not made in search of another dictator.”

Freedom and Justice Party headquarters were attacked in two locations in Alexandria and one in Port Said, at least. In Port Said, leftists clashed with Muslim Brothers and snipers in plainclothes took pot shots at them. Leftists protesting Morsi maintain that they were assaulted by Muslim Brotherhood mobs, which led to the attacks on FJP HQs. In Suez, hundreds of protesters attacked the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood in that canal city. FJP offices in Asyut and in the provinces of Daqahliya and Gharbiya were surrounded by demonstrators. In Alexandria, the head of the Kefaya! movement was wounded in a clash. Some demonstrators were assaulted by government security forces, others by Muslim Brotherhood enforcers.

In Damietta, Aswan, Mansoura and Tanta, protesters clashed with Muslim Brothers outside their party HQs.

Thousands of protesters descended on Tahrir Square in the center of Cairo, some setting up tents. Security was provided for them by the Ultras or soccer militants, though they were subjected to teargas barrages and police tried to cut off access streets. Some 30 liberal and leftist parties and groups supported the demonstrations, including the Wafd Party, the Party of the Liberated, the Popular Current, and smaller organizations such as Kefaya! (Enough!) and April 6. Establishment groups such as the Attorneys’ Guild also protested (Morsi’s decree detracted from the power of the courts).

As night fell in downtown Cairo, some 26 groups, such as the Leftist People’s Current of former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, announced that they intended to camp out in the square. Others left, but pledged to come back for a big demonstration on Tuesday.

AP has a video report:

Street marches were staged, heading to Tahrir square, from Shubra, the dense slum that is disproportionately Christian, from the popular Sayyida Zaynab quarter, from al-Abbasiya’s mosque (near Ain Shams University and also a mixed Muslim-Christian area), and from a mosque in Giza.

Morsi responded to the protests by reaffirming his plans to arrogate the new powers to himself.

14 Responses

  1. The Arab Spring lives in Cairo’s streets and Morsi won’t be able to snuff it out, whatever his authoritarian penchants. Maybe he’ll win support for the power grab from the Ikhwan, but that’s not the a majority.

  2. It’s essential that the democracy seeking Egyptians stay in the streets and keep-up the painful struggle for democracy. If they give up now, all is lost for at least a generation.

    It is also important for the U.S. government to make an unambiguous condemnation of Morsy. If Obama won’t do it, I approve of Congress playing the bad cop and cutting off some aid.

    I suspect that Morsy is a good man who sincerely believes that he needs dictatorial powers to guide Egypt’s transition to democracy. I also suspect that Bashar Assad came into an office a good man, sincerely dedicated to reforming Syria into a modern state.

    The old adage “Power currupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” proves true again and again. None of us, no matter how well intentioned we might be, is impervious to human nature.

    • It is also important for the U.S. government to make an unambiguous condemnation of Morsy. If Obama won’t do it, I approve of Congress playing the bad cop and cutting off some aid.

      Not yet. Now is the time for stern by quiet diplomacy. He’s not going to rescind the orders under any circumstances. The goal should be to lock him into his promise to give up those powers when the constitution is written.

  3. I will repeat comments I made here in the past…..The Muslim Brotherhood is NOT just another version of a European Christian Democratic party which promises to maintain the secular democratic regime in more and merely to manage it more efficiently. The Muslim Brotherhood is a revolutionary movement that fervently believes a socially just society MUST be a religious righteous society. They believe secular politicians inherently are incapable of moving the country to a socially just program…only people steeped in Islamic values are capable of doing that. They also believe that a people who do not observe the Divine Law as taught by Islam are not it a position to be worthy of a better, more prosperous, more just society.
    Certainly there are differences among the MB leadership about how fast they should move in bringing about a more righteous society and what the relationship should be with those who do not yet understand their message, but there is no disagreement with the ultimate goals of the movement, which is a better Egypt and better Muslim world as a whole. Thus, it should not be surprising that many MB people view it as being self-destructive for Egypt to allow the MB government to be removed from power and that everything must be done to maintain the MB regime. Thus, it should not be surprising for people to see what Mursi is doing.

    I think it is legitimate to wonder also what Erdogan and his party would do should they ultimately lose an election to the secular, Ataturkist forces in Turkey. They might view it as being illegitimate and damaging to the welfare of Turkey and its citzens. We will have to wait and see.

    • I agree with you that the Muslim Brotherhood is completely different from European Democratic Party – who would even suggest such a thing?

      However, one could replace “the Christian Right in America” with “Muslim Brotherhood” in your post above, and that description would be correct.

      This political axe grinding is silly. The Muslim Brotherhood has a disturbing tendency, your concerns are well founded. Then again, one must recognize that a MB-like party has been relatively successful in Turkey, so nothing outcomes are not so obvious or predictable as you state.

  4. Just a super speedy note to tell you that, in the last sentence, the correct spelling is “arrogate.” I apologize for the pedantism, but your post is quite informative and deserves to be unblemished by spelling errors.

    Also, “arrogate” is such an excellent word, apropos of so much that politicians do, that it should be aired much more frequently.

    • The judges found that MB and Nur illegally ran candidates for independent seats, which is truek

    • I can understand why people would be more afraid of a President seizing power for himself than of a judiciary that rebalances power between the other two branches.

      After all, how many countries have suffered under judicial dictatorships?

  5. On the other hand however, polls continue to show large support for the presidential decrees, even in leftist and liberal pages (e.g. Kulluna Khaled Said, Alyoum Alsabi’, etc.).

    What I’m trying to say is that you are not presenting an accurate picture on the scope of support/opposition these decrees have.

    People are fed up with the constant obstruction the Mubarak-appointed Supreme Constitutional Court has become to the transition process and its blatant bias against any form of Islamist dominance, even if it came through transparent elections (see Constitutional Judge Tahani Aljabali’s interview with the New York Times before the dissolution of the lower house of the Parliament in which she stated Islamist dominance as the reason behind its dissolution).

    People are fed up with the liberal and leftist politician’s constant patronizing attitude and their threatning of the majority by insisting on things going their way (in the constitution or otherwise) or else seeking to obsruct and bring down the whole transitional process.

    It is for these such reasons that the majority of the people are supportive of such decrees: they’ve had enough and they want to see the end if it.

    That the state might have an Islamist tinge is not something that worries them, sir, it is actually for that very reason that the majority had elected them!

    Egyptian liberal politicians must re-learn democracy, must learn to respect the will of the majority, and must learn to compromise so that the country can move forward.

    Again it is for such reasons that the majority of the people are willing to accept these temporary decrees until the state’s constitution and institutions are reinstated.

    Please let this other point of view be heard.

    • You are tragically mistaken, there is no such thing as temporary authoritarianism in a state with no democratic infrastructure or traditions.

      Your insinuation that the election produced a mandate for any sort of Islamic State is not supportable. Many people voted for the MB as the lesser of two evils. The MB overwhelmed fragmented, disorganized political opposition.

      I do appreciate your insight that Morsy may have more popular support for his actions than is being portrayed in the western press. Whether it is a majority is unknowable.

      The essential point you are missing is that democracy is not just a ruler getting a popular mandate, far more important is respect for democratic institutions. Morsy has just trashed the nascent democratic institutions around him.

      • “You are tragically mistaken, there is no such thing as temporary authoritarianism in a state with no democratic infrastructure or traditions.”

        Ideally, yes. But the ideal cannot always be applied in the immediate reality. And when reality shows a regime-leftover Constitutional Court actively dissolving any of those democratic institutions and engaging in blatant politics then one might have to consider a temporary lesser-evil.

        “Your insinuation that the election produced a mandate for any sort of Islamic State is not supportable. Many people voted for the MB as the lesser of two evils. The MB overwhelmed fragmented, disorganized political opposition.”

        Actually it is, if you’ve been following opinion polls on Egypt, the overwhelming Islamist victory in the parliamentarian elections (who weren’t exactly hiding their advocacy of a more Islamic state) and the virtual consensus in Egypt on the necessity of applying Islamic Law/Sharia (including liberals and leftists. It is that pervasive in Egyptian society that claiming otherwise means political suicide, even though they might hide it when addressing Western media).

        And you forget that there are Islamists other than the MB as well. If you remember, while the MB had some 45 percent in the last parliament, Islamists collectively had near 75 percent.

        So yes, I do believe that such a claim is supportable.

        And yes, one cannot assert with 100% definiteness that a majority supports Morsi’s decrees, but one can make a good guess based on the numerous polls I have mentioned, ranging from 90% support to 50 something.
        One could also allude to the relatively limited number of protestors when compared to the masses that Tahrir bulged with on Friday two weeks ago on a pressure for more Sharia in the constitution, and that was without the participation of the MB and Nour party (who comprised together some 70% of the previous parliament).

        And yes, respecting -and protecting- nascent democratic institutions is important. That is why we have the immunity from dissolution given by the decrees to the indirectly-elected Constitutional Assembly and the elected upper house of parliament, as well as the elected presidential institution from an imminent and highly expected dissolution ruling from the unelected Mubarak-appointed Constitutional Court, which is on a role when it comes to “trashing nascent democratic institutions”.

        • The parliamentary elections were conducted before the MB had any organized competition.

          I believe Juan’s analysis of presidential split was about right:
          link to juancole.com

          Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have been heavy-handed at every stage of this saga, the recent elimination of the judiciary is just the last straw on the camel’s back. The MB is foolishly writing a consitution that will be unacceptable to large segments of Egyptian society.

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