Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mohammad Mursi’s opponents have won the numbers game, but what next?

June 30, 2013, marking one year of Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi’s presidency, was hyped by the opposition as a game changer. However, even the most optimistic could not have predicted the mass turnout in cities all over the country. Millions of Egyptians took to the streets of 25 of the country’s 27 governorates to vent their discontent, taking liberal local TV anchors, who for months have been calling for people to get off their sofas, by surprise.

Egypt is no stranger to demonstrations, which largely go ignored by the Islamist regime that holds to legitimacy of the ballot box. However, Sunday was different—not only in terms of numbers, which estimates indicate exceed those during the January 25, 2011, revolution. On this occasion, the crowds were an eclectic socio-economic mix of intellectuals, middle class civil servants, factory workers, children perched on their father’s shoulders, people of advanced years and even black-clad women, their faces covered by the niqab.

The one thing they all had in common was their frustration with the Muslim Brotherhood. Those determined souls—who stood sweltering, packed tightly together in temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius, without shade, from mid-morning, chanting slogans and joining in with patriotic songs—were motivated for differing reasons.

Moderates fear the regime is intent on replicating the Iranian Islamic model, political activists object to Mursi’s authoritarianism—his attempts to bring the judiciary to heel and his crackdown on the media. The affluent worry over the failing economy; the struggling poor are angry over rocketing inflation, diminishing job opportunities, electricity outages and shortages of fuel causing hours-long queues outside petrol stations. The fallaheen (peasants), that faction of the Muslim Brotherhood’s core base, complain Mursi has reneged on his promises to better their lives. Devout Muslims—who once championed Mursi, but are now hard-pressed to put bread on the table—feel a sense of betrayal.

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