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Anti-Morsi protesters gather in Tahrir Square 370.(Photo by: Reuters)
Analysis: Morsi isn’t going anywhere without a fight
Experts say protests will continue if Egypt refuses to reform.
Cairo overwhelmingly expressed itself on Sunday to be unhappy with the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Much of the Egyptian media are expressing their support for the opposition.

Surprisingly, the demonstrations were less violent than some had expected, or at least compared to the protests leading to the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak.

Characterizing the euphoria in Cairo Sunday evening was the popular Egyptian blogger The Big Pharaoh, who tweeted: “Tahrir is packed! Area around presidential palace is packed. No room to put your foot. Not mentioning the Alex [Alexandria] and the provinces!”

However, despite the protests and the speculation and calls by some in the opposition for a military coup, one does not seem likely now, giving Morsi more time to find a way out of this crisis. Clearly though, he cannot easily continue on the course he has been going if he wants to solidify his and the Brotherhood’s hold on power.

Prof. Abdallah Schleifer, a Cairo-based columnist for the Al-Arabiya news website, told The Jerusalem Post Sunday from Cairo that Morsi does not control the police, as they are siding openly with protesters.

“They are not going to defend the Muslim Brotherhood anywhere,” he said adding that the army has remained independent.

The Muslim Brotherhood thus must rely on its street fighters, who are trained, but not a well-armed professional military force, said Schleifer.

“If the state remains frozen like it is now, demonstrations will get bigger and bigger, and they won’t go away,” he said.

In the countryside this may not be the case, but he cited reports that many key tribes in northern Egypt that supported Morsi a year ago are shifting their allegiances to the opposition.

In an article on Al-Arabiya Sunday, Schleifer said that the state media were in “open rebellion” against the regime and that the people in Cairo want the army back in power.

He takes note that the protests so far have been quite peaceful and he credits the army for this as it prepared well and took up strong positions throughout the city. In the provinces, however, he says there has been more fighting.

In Tahrir Square, there is apparently a division among the opposition, he said: Some are calling for the army to intervene, and others for the army to stay out of politics, with some even chanting slogans against the army.

“I do think the present army commander is much more sensitive” than was the military leadership during the time of the protests against Mubarak, he said, adding that the army then acted clumsily.

Schleifer said that to change the situation, Morsi would have to do something dramatic like offering key positions in the government to opposition figures. If Morsi does not act, Schleifer warns that the protests will continue and the situation will deteriorate further.

The downward economic spiral of the economy is one of the main stimulants for the protests. People are having trouble putting food on their plates and tourism is not doing well.

Schleifer said that the majority of Cairo, which holds around 55 percent of the population, voted for Morsi’s opponent in the 2012 election, and at this point the majority of Cairo and its suburbs are overwhelmingly opposed to the Egyptian president.

Zvi Mazel, who served as Israel’s sixth ambassador to Egypt and who is a contributor to the Post, said that Defense Minister Abel-Fattah el-Sisi is not a Muslim Brotherhood member despite being a pious Muslim and he has showed full independence, not giving into the Brotherhood. On many occasions Sisi has said that he is with the people of Egypt, said Mazel.

Once Morsi came into power, he saw he could not control the army or promote Muslim Brotherhood officers, because Mubarak had done a good job filtering them out of the military.

Mazel sees one possible scenario where Morsi could overcome the crisis, if he were to form a government filled with independent technocrats.

But from reports, it seems that the Egyptian president remains defiant despite the crisis. The Muslim Brotherhood organization is described by analysts as being “pragmatic,” but the government’s behavior since coming to power seems to be more like a play for power at all costs, than any reasonableness, he said.

Mazel goes on to describe the organization’s stated goal of establishing an Islamic state and how Morsi has gone about this by having Brotherhood cronies head key ministries.

The regime has been seeking to build the foundations for an Islamic state, but at the same time it completely neglected the economy, said Mazel.

“There are around 500,000-700,000 very brainwashed Muslim Brotherhood members and they are ready to die for the Muslim Brotherhood,” concluded Mazel.

That means that Morsi will not be leaving without a fight. •
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