Egypt: The People Still want the Fall of the Regime

On the two-year anniversary of the demonstration that kicked off the Egyptian Revolution and the Second Republic, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians came out to demonstrate. They were not so much commemorating the fall of the Mubarak regime as protesting its successor, the government of Muhammad Morsi, the first freely elected Egyptian president in history. In the city of Suez on the canal, anti-government forces clashed with police, and 7 of the protesters and one policeman are said to have been killed. Another protester was killed in Ismailia. Hundreds were wounded throughout the country.

In Egypt’s second city, Alexandria, a huge crowd assembled at Qa’id Ibrahim Mosque after Friday prayers, demanding the abrogation of the constitution and a correction of the course of the revolution.

In the provinces, angry crowds attacked government offices, blocked rails, and in some instances attacked the local HQ of the Muslim Brotherhood. In the Delta depot town of Damanhour, protesters set the Muslim Brotherhood HQ on fire.

The Muslim Brotherhood itself, which has substantial support in rural Egypt, decided against engaging in counter-demonstrations, for fear that clashes would break out between pro-Morsi and anti-Morsi factions. But the police and security forces, now under the command of the fundamentalist president, were deployed in attempts to disperse the young protesters, just as they had been in the time of Mubarak.

Many of the protesters are demanding revisions to the hastily-passed, fundamentalist-leaning constitution, and are demanding that Morsi step down and pave the way for new presidential elections. Morsi expects to be in power for at least 4 years, and by the new constitution could serve two terms. He is preparing for parliamentary elections in late February, in which his Freedom and Justice Party (the civil wing of the Muslim Brotherhood) hopes to emerge dominant. The ascendancy of the Religious Right and its male chauvinist and puritanical emphases has alienated mainstream Egyptians, even many religious ones.

Morsi, representing the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, has acted high-handedly has favored market-based solutions to the country’s problems, and has cracked down on striking laborers. It has provoked the anger of secular, centrist, feminist, Coptic Christian, leftist and labor groups.

In Cairo, there were several centers of protest, including the iconic Tahrir Square downtown, the presidential palace, the Maspero area around the state television station, and October 6 bridge linking the downtown area with neighborhoods beyond the Nile. There were active clashes between protesters and police on October 6 bridge for much of Friday. The army and state security forces used tear gas against the protesters. A youth anarchist group, the “Black Bloc,” which dressed themselves in black, including masks, attempted to set fire to the presidential palace with Molotov cocktails before being dispersed with heavy tear gas barrages. But most of the Cairo protests, despite provocation by security forces, remained peaceful.

Protesters are consolidating their position in Tahrir Square and pledging to camp out in it until their goals are met.

Aljazeera English reports:

7 Responses

  1. The “people” could only muster 10% of Egyptians to turn out and vote against the new constitution.

    We shouldn’t confuse “the people” with the secular, Westernized minority or with entrenched Mubarak holdovers.

    • Actually, “the people,” for some incomprehensible reason, boycotted the vote on the constitution. They didn’t try to turn out voters; they tried, and succeeded in accomplishing the opposite.

      As we saw in Iraq, when the Sunnis boycotted the January 2005 elections, it’s not good idea to carry on as if the boycotting minority doesn’t exist and doesn’t need to be brought into the political system.

  2. Morsi does have popular support. He won the presidency in a fair election and his constitution, while it is not a consensus document like it should be, also won majority support. I think its clear that the religious groups we don’t like all that much constitute the majority in Egypt and that’s a fact we’re going to have to live with.

  3. This is not the first revolution to be violently divided between urban and rural populations. Recall the conflicts in Russia, where the rural-oriented Social Revolutionary party carried out the February Revolution, but that party’s hardline wing (including Leon Trotsky!) turned on the new pro-war leader, and allied with the urban Bolsheviks to carry out the October Revolution.

    We also see the urban-rural hatred in Mao’s China, in Kampuchea, and apparently in the back-and-forth fighting in Thailand in recent years. Let’s not forget some nasty business in the early USA – Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion involved rural anger with the new arrangements.

    However, the historical trend is for poor, fast-reproducing rural populations to flood into cities. The question is, can religious fundamentalists really hold onto the extremity of their beliefs for more than a generation once they’re living in a cosmopolitan and interdependent environment?

  4. The economic policy of the Muslim Brotherhood is pretty “Western” , with its’ market-based solutions and deference to the IMF. But, as the economy continues to slide, the MB may need to use the “culture war” and authoritarianism to hang on to power.
    The opposition needs to develop the kind of organizational skills that the MB has.

  5. I live in Cairo, and I can tell you that chalking up Egypt’s troubles to religious differences is to fail to recognize the many different groups who are both religious and secular and are wanting the same things: a good economy, jobs, improved social programs, upward mobility and repairs to the seriously delapidated infrastructure.

    Morsi barely won the presidency, and it was not because people here are terribly religious. He won because people were terrified of having Shafik win. A vote for Morsi was a vote for his promises of moderation, his claimed willingness to create an Egypt that welcomed all Egyptians as equal participants, and a host of other lovely things that since seem to be nothing more than hot air.

    7 months later, and Morsi has not made even one gesture towards the people who elected him in good faith. The main thrust of his presidency so far seems to have been in seeking revenge or slights against the Brotherhood or himself. And he has given himself more power than Mubarak had had in all the years of his dictatorship.

    All in all, I would say the Egyptian people have a right to complain.

    • I am happy to see the Egyptian people continuing to complain about their leadership and government direction. They have shown their actions to be effective and need to keep their focus on the long term general welfare of the public.

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