Writing about Egypt after its revolution has not been an easy task for any analyst seeking objectivity, yet most of the events hitting the country these days have taken the country into another turn, and this has made the task for analysts even tougher and more complicated.
One year has passed since President Mohamed Morsi assumed power, and since then Egyptians have been driven into corners by the fierce political rivalry between the contending parties, and leaving few free from the grip of polarity and bias.
It is gloomy and depressing to be an Egyptian living the details of the current political scene, yet if one pulls himself out of the unnecessary details an air of contentment will flow into his lungs and allow the eyes to witness a country breaking up its decades-old chains.
President Morsi’s speech came in after one year of ruling as the country passed —and is still passing — through series of extreme internal and external challenges; the speech was primarily designed to address the internal challenges.
Timing of the Speech
President Morsi’s speech was timed at a very delicate date and during some exceptional environment that Egypt is passing through. The 30th of June — four days after the speech — has been chosen by the opposition to be the date set to overthrow President Morsi through organizing mass protests throughout Egypt demanding early presidential elections. The protests have been set by the organizers as the crowning phase for a weeks-long campaign called “Tamarod” (Rebellion) that was organized by youth to collect millions of signatures or no-confidence vote to oust the president and demand early elections.
The Tamarod Campaign announced that it has collected more than 15 million signatures few days before the president’s speech, a claim that was dismissed by the pro-Morsi groups as fake and deceitful.
In gearing up for the June 30th protests, the Tamaroud campaign has coordinated its activities with the other opposition parties and movements to mobilize Egyptians for the occasion. On the other hand, most of the other political forces, supporters of the presidents and those opposing to early presidential elections, mobilized themselves in the streets to prove the strength of their camp and the weakness of Tamarod and were able to gather about two million protestors — according to the CNN Arabic— in one place on the 21st of June. In addition, the Islamic Group (al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya) launched a campaign called “Tagarod” (Impartiality) and announced that they has gathered 11 million signatures demanding that President Morsi continues his legal four-year term.
The speech came in to land on a boiling political landscape where Egyptians have been torn up between supporters and the opposition. This polarization has taken toll on the Egyptian national fabric to the extent that some have been attacked for having beards; some masjids have even been attacked by Molotov cocktails and rocks and worshipers locked inside by “protesters” for being supporters of President Morsi.
Never to mention the unending media campaigns attacking the opposing side that had their impact on the attitude of people against each other.
Generally speaking, at this point in time, there are three main camps that occupy the Egyptian politics:
- Supporters of President Morsi with no pressing announced needs for reform beyond what he is already doing;
- Supporters of the president’s right to his full four-years term, yet asking for reforms;
- And opposers to the performance of the president, demanding early elections.
Each party has its own arguments and claims, putting in consideration the existence of an ocean of lies and misinformation circulated around by media and the so-called experts.
According to the Egyptian Presidency’s website “A Year of Egyptian Presidency: Steps and Challenges,” throughout the past year, there has been more than 50 smear campaigns against the president, 5821 demonstrations and clashes, 7709 protests, and 24 calls for a million-person march. According to the supporters of Morsi, such unprecedented turmoil is enough to render any president politically paralyzed, thus derailing most of his agenda, and making it fall short of the expectations of Egyptians who staged a successful revolution on January 25th.
The main argument on this camp is that if President Morsi was removed now because hundreds of thousands, or even millions, went to the streets demanding his removal before the end of his term, then Egypt will never be stable. The non-Islamic option that the opposition is seeking to replace President Morsi will surely not be the best option for the masses that elected the president and surely not the members and supporters of the Islamic parties, which will immediately push them to the streets asking for the removal of the new president, and it goes from there. Egyptian political future might turn into a Ping-Pong game, where the Islamic and the non-Islamic masses play up with the presidential seat with no consideration for stability and development.
Standing temporarily in the pro-Morsi camp are Islamic youths that are barely accepting his Islamic performance in terms of applying Shari’ah. This trend is not of a marginal importance in the political life in Egypt after the revolution, it is a growing number with increasing reasons to take actions to either push aside the obstacles standing against the president in his path to apply Shari’ah, or drop altogether out of the pro-Morsi camp and practice politics in their own way. But it has to be made clear that pilling more pressures on the president or pushing him away from his Islamic identity and ability to reflect that on politics will lead to an explosion on the other side of the equation.
On the other hand, members of the anti-Morsi camp have unified their position on one demand , which is calling for early presidential elections, with justifications that range from meaningful evaluation of performance, such as the party of former presidential candidate Dr. Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, to mere insults poured unto the president, Muslim Brotherhood movement, and even the Islamic movements at-large.
Before the Tamarod Campaign was launched, leaders of the opposition were calling for specific demands from the president that ranged from dismissing the government, reinstating the general persecutor appointed by Mubarak, applying amendments to the constitution, and changing the law of parliamentary elections. However, most of the opposition parties, including the National Salvation Front — biggest opposition coalition —, decided all of sudden to drop all these demands and unite behind the need for early presidential elections.
This camp — which mainly include liberal and leftist parties — stresses on their rejection to the Muslim Brotherhood movement and its interference in the presidential decisions — according to its claim — and sometimes the arguments go as far as rejecting the Islamic parties altogether and the idea of mixing politics with religion.
The danger lies in the media backing the opposition and the nature of arguments being made to support the opposition and rally masses behind it. In most cases, the severity of attacks against the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic parties at large go way beyond Mubarak’s attacks using his state’s media machine. Such kind of opposition charges audience with negative feelings against the other, leading to clashes and violence in some cases.
Morsi’s Latest Move
President Morsi, in his speech, aimed to attract the attention of the majority of the Egyptians by touching on the slightest decline in the services or standards of living, which have been hugely magnified by the opposition media, leading to an increasing discontent among masses.
It seems that the president understood the fact that most Egyptians are more concerned now with their worsening economic conditions, not the political combats being played in media and elsewhere. This fact was proven in two recent surveys conducted by the Zogby Research Services and Pew Research Global Attitude Project.
In this speech, which lasted for around three hours, President Morsi managed to use a less complicated language and focus on specific problems that the normal Egyptian is facing, and apologized for his shortcomings.
The president described the challenges facing Egypt as: (1) polarity and political conflicts, (2) slowness of economic development, and (3) worsening of the living conditions. He listed his achievement in the first year that was mainly focused on the economic side.
What was different and vivid in this speech is that the president took a step away from his known calm and attacked specific names whom he accused of working for pushing the country back and reversing the revolution. Still he opened up his hands to the opposition for reconciliation through ordering a new committee to be formed to organize the national reconciliation process and ordered the formation of another committee to collect the needs from the parties for the parts of the constitution they have interest in amending. In addition, the president ordered some strict measured to be taken against those who practice corruption in the state or in stopping the government services and good from reaching citizens.
The speech fell way below expectations for opponents. It offered too little too late and did not even address the demands of early presidential elections. And the speech has also been condemned by some as too apolitical and far away from the reality, pinpointing flaws in some dimensions of the speech, especially where Morsi critically denounced what he sees as a political stance of some of the judiciary.
But if one looks at the speech in its totality, one can say that it is an excellent improvement compared to the president’s past performance, yet did it reach out to the audience he intended? And did it give more reasons for others to insist on marching for their demands on the 30th of June? Only these couple of days will tell.
A Bright Side?
As gloomy as it seems, Egypt might actually be progressing towards a better future. It might be true that the opposition has valid demands and fears and it might also be true that President Morsi is not the ideal president Egyptians hoped for when revolting. Yet, it is also true that the most prominent heads of the opposition are taking steps that unmask a lot about their political agendas and this has made many true Egyptians start to reconsider their stand.
Al-Baradie, who is one of the three most prominent opposition leaders in Egypt and a former presidential candidate, revealed few days ago his interest in bringing back the “foloul” (remnants of Mubarak’s regime) to the political life and collaborating with them. Ahmed Shafiq, one of Mubarak’s strongmen, is trying to get back to Egypt and find his place as a leader of the revolution against President Morsi; and more.
True Egyptians with sincerity to push their country forward while opposing the performance of the president need nationalist figures to lead the opposition; not figures that have no agenda to move forward, not figures that have no job except opposing for the sake of opposition, and not figures that only eye the seat of presidency and not the wellbeing of the country.
Until this responsible opposition is created, Egyptians now have two different options on the plate: allowing the opposition to have its way and bring down the government elected by the majority, with an objective of restoring part of the old regime to build up the country again from rubbles, or giving a chance to a regime — still in its normal political prematurity — attempting to fight corruption and admitting his challenges and shortcomings, to which side will Egyptians go?