Protesters in Tahrir Square 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Egyptians feel less safe from crime and worse off financially than before the revolution that toppled President Husni Mubarak, according to opinion polls as the country’s transitional military government struggles to retain its legitimacy in the eyes of many Egyptians.
The two polls conducted by the US-based Gallup Organization in face-to-face interviews during July and August found that 38% answered “no” to the question of whether they felt safe walking alone in the city or their neighborhoods. That was down from 51% in the previous poll in June but more than double the 17 percent rate on the eve of the revolution, according to Gallup.
At the same time, more Egyptians than ever reported they are struggling to make ends meet. Fewer than one in three said they were managing on their current household income, down from 43% a year ago, before mass protests erupted. Some 40% reported they are finding it “very difficult” to get by, an 11 percentage-point jump from June, according to Gallup’s poll data.
Nearly half said there had been times in the last 12 months when they didn’t have enough money to buy food for their families, the poll found.
Perceptions of deteriorating personal and financial distress comes as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the group of generals running the country until elections has seen its standing with the public decline amid accusations that it is foot-dragging on the transition to democracy and reversing the human rights gains of the revolution.
“The lack of improvement in Egyptians' situations since Mubarak's ouster does not bode well for an interim government that is facing mounting criticism,” Gallup said. “A number of high-profile political players are calling for the SCAF to resign from leading the country's daily affairs on all nonmilitary issues.”
More than eight months after Mubarak was ousted, the economy continues
to suffer from political uncertainty and strikes while the interim
government has tried to buy social peace with increased subsidies – a
strategy that has caused the budget deficit to swell while depriving
business of capital to invest and expand.
Meanwhile, SCAP’s standing with the public took a nosedive three weeks
ago when a peaceful protest by the country’s Coptic Christian minority
left 28 dead when security forces attacked the demonstrators.
Egypt's consumption index, measure of spending by household on items
such as food and clothing, dropped 38% in September from the same period
the year ago, according to retail sales figures compiled by the
Egyptian Federation of Commerce. Ahmed El-Wakil, federation chairman,
told Ahram Online on Monday that the decline showed the damaging effect
of price hikes and political tension on consumer confidence.
Last week, Standard & Poor's downgraded Egypt's credit rating to
BB-, citing weak government finances and rising risks to macroeconomic
stability during the nation's political transition, which gets under way
later this month with the first round of elections for parliament. The
International Monetary Fund forecast in a report last week that Egyptian
gross domestic product will expand 1.2% this year and 1.8% in 2012,
rates insufficient enough to create jobs or raise incomes.
“People are aware that the economy has declined substantially since the
January 25 Revolution. There’s now a media campaign to encourage people
to work and rebuild the economy… Its going to take a long time for the
situation to pick up,” Maye Kassem, associate professor of political
scientist at the American University of Cairo, told The Media Line.
“People feel they are in a period of psychological insecurity. People
don’t know where Egypt is heading.”
The Gallup poll provided some silver lining to the concerns expressed by
Egyptians. While the number of Egyptians expressing worry about crime
is high, the number who said they had actually been a victim of crime is
down from a similar survey taken before the revolution.
Only 8% told Gallup pollsters that they or a member of their household
had been the victim of a property theft in the past 12 months, down from
13% before the revolution. Only 3% said they or a family member had
been assaulted or mugged in the past year, down from 7% before the
revolution, according to Gallup.
The public’s concern about crime was the justification Egypt's military
ruler, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, made earlier this month
for reviving the nation's controversial emergency laws. Opposition
activists were livid about the setback to freedoms, but Tantawi struck a
chord with the public with the move. “Wives are being kidnapped in the
streets right in front of their husbands,” he said.
Meanwhile, a surprisingly large number of Egyptians expressed the view
that “can people in this country can get ahead by working hard?” the
survey found. Some 95% of respondents answered yes to the question,
marking a steady rise from 81% in October 2010, before the revolution.
In fact, the crime and the economy are closely linked. Tourism, one of
Egypt’s biggest earners of badly needed foreign exchange, has been hurt
badly by fears of visitors for the safety while visiting the country.
Analysts have ascribed the gap between public fears and crime statistics
to media coverage, a link borne out by the Gallup. Egyptians who rely
on state television for their news were more likely to feel safe (62%)
than those who watched other outlets, such as Qatar-based Al-Jazeera
(51%). The tiny minority of Egyptians who said they get via social media
also felt less safe, the poll, showed.
“It’s not out of control. People are going to work and school. It’s not
like the place is a jungle,” Kassem said. “In the media, when there is a
strike and demonstration, they portray it as if the whole country is