Arab World: Will Egypt's Morsi weather the storm?

The Egyptian president is tightening his grip on key ministries, but his support is sharply down and a new revolutionary movement aims to sweep him out of power.

June 22, 2013 08:04
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi speaking 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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With mass demonstrations scheduled for June 30, a new poll has shown that the popularity of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has dropped from 57 percent a year ago to barely 28%.

The revolutionary youths who toppled former president Hosni Mubarak have launched a new movement called Tamarud, or “rebellion,” and are spearheading a campaign to force the president to resign; they accuse him of having betrayed the revolution, setting up a dictatorial regime, oppressing the individual and failed to address the spiraling economic crisis.

They also accuse him of blatantly filling every state position with members of the Muslim Brotherhood – a militant organization which openly states its desire to restore the caliphate – though Morsi had renounced his membership in the Brotherhood upon taking office.

In one of his more flagrant endeavors to complete the Brotherhood takeover of the country, Morsi appointed a devout member of the movement as culture minister. The man immediately fired the heads of the departments of music, theater, literature and visual arts, angering most Egyptians.

A similar process occured in the Ministries of Education and Religion.

It is obvious to all that the Brotherhood is striving to achieve complete control in the realms of education, religion and culture, with the aim of molding new generations in accordance with its ideology.

Earlier this week, Morsi appointed 17 new governors; seven are Muslim Brothers, and one, the governor of the key tourism province of Luxor, is a member of the Gama’a al- Islamiyya, the terrorist organization responsible for the 1997 Luxor massacre that left 57 foreign tourists dead.

With the lower house of parliament disbanded by the courts, Morsi is pressing the upper house of the parliament – to which he granted by presidential decree the legislative powers vested in the presidency by the new constitution – to pass a number of important laws wanted by the Brotherhood concerning NGOs, the electoral process and the political rights of citizens.

These laws severely curtail the fundamental rights of the people, and many have been struck down by Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court.

The Tamarud movement has been circulating a petition to strip Morsi of his legitimacy, vowing to gather 15 million signatures before June 30.

Having announced it had garnered seven million so far, the movement is now at work organizing mass demonstrations against Morsi and the Brotherhood regime throughout the country – protests slated to reach their peak on June 30 in order to force the president to resign.

Will they succeed? It is true that most non-Islamic parties have declared their support for the Tamarud initiative and will take part in the mass demonstration at the end of the month. The National Salvation Front opposing Morsi’s legislative power grabs – led by Mohamed ElBaradei, Amru Moussa and Hamdeen Sabahi – has also agreed to the move; Moussa has gone as far as to say that June 30 will see the end of the Morsi regime.

The Front – which unites the liberals, the Left and the popular Nasserist current – is the only organized political opposition, and refuses to dialogue with Morsi until its three demands are met: withdrawal of the new electoral law granting a clear advantage to the Brotherhood party, setting up a neutral government to stay in place until elections are held, and dismissal of the attorney-general appointed in violation of the law.

Morsi and the Brotherhood are pretty much alone; even Salafists and other religious groups – including terrorists who were allowed to come back from their exile abroad – no longer support them, because they disagree on the application of the Shari’a law and are wary of the true aims of the Brotherhood. Incidentally, the Brotherhood does want to implement Shari’a, but cannot yet do so in the face of popular protest and the need to tackle the economy first. Only Gama’a al-Islamiyya openly supports the regime.

This is an extremist organization linked to the assassination of Anwar Sadat; It also tried to assassinate Mubarak in the ’90s. The group carried out, with Iranian help, a series of terror attacks throughout Egypt, killing more than 1,000 people, Egyptians and foreign tourists. Under Morsi, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces granted the group a form of legitimacy, releasing its guerrillas from jail.

Ordinary Egyptians are so disenchanted with Morsi that last Friday, as he was leaving the mosque after prayers, he was surrounded by hundreds of people who tried to block his way and abused him verbally. His security detail worked hard to get him safely out of the mosque and into his car.

There are daily attacks against offices of the Brotherhood throughout the country, and protesters remain camped out near the presidential palace in Cairo.

The people’s main worry is the economic situation. So far, the government has managed to import staples and make them available at subsidized prices – but only thanks to generous grants and loans received from Qatar, Saudi Arabia Libya and Turkey.

Yet Morsi cannot bring himself to accept the terms of the International Monetary Fund, which is ready to loan the country $4.8 billion, but demands reforms which would hurt the poorer classes – so far the bulwark of his regime.

To add to this already volatile mix, a crisis is brewing with Ethiopia over its plan to build a dam on the Blue Nile, a move that could impact the amount of water reaching Egypt. Though there are efforts to defuse the situation, Egyptians are angry at what they perceive as their country’s inability to protect their most vital interests.

In a futile attempt to display leadership, Morsi broke off relations with Syria, a move which came as no surprise and stirred little interest.

The Brotherhood is beginning to sit up and notice that the situation is getting serious.

Various reports mention that the younger members of the organization are training in paramilitary groups, in order to defend their leader and their offices against demonstrators.

As for the Egyptian army – which is basking in an unheard-of 94% approval rate – is sitting on the fence, and says it won’t intervene.

The Interior Ministry is putting the final touches on a plan to draft thousands of policemen and use the armored vehicles of the dreaded security forces in order to protect the regime.

Instead of addressing burning issues, the Brotherhood is stepping up its efforts to secure its hold on the country, while Morsi can be heard repeating that Allah will come to his aid.

Time will tell if the opposition is strong enough and determined enough to challenge their domination.

The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.

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