Egypt prepares to rally for and against Morsi on president’s first anniversary
Analysis: Morsi pledged to be president of all Egyptians but has adopted the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda
A crowd gathers to hear a televised speech by Egypyian president Mohamed Morsi on a screen in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Photograph: Tara Todras-Whitehill/The New York Times
As Egyptians prepare to demonstrate for and against President Mohamed Morsi, who marks his first anniversary in office on Sunday, the army makes contingency plans to counter clashes, and attacks on the ruling Muslim Brotherhood’s offices and presidential sites.
Critics of Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood, dismissed his overlong address to the nation and joked, in traditional Egyptian fashion, about him saying nothing new from Wednesday evening until yesterday morning.
The Brotherhood and the recently formed opposition Tamarod, or Rebel movement, are set to hold rival rallies today, prompting Egyptians to stock up on necessities in case of clashes in the streets.
Tamarod has announced the formation of the “June 30 Front” which presents a political vision for the post-June 30th period. Secular opposition parties have called for mass protests across the country on that day demanding the ousting of Morsi.
Tamarod says it has collected 15 million signatures on a petition demanding that Morsi go. Tamarod, vanguard of the secular camp, has also put forward a roadmap for a six-month transition under a neutral government, the drafting of a new constitution, and fresh presidential elections.
Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, won the votes of many Egyptians who were not followers of the Brotherhood but had taken part in the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
On taking office, Morsi resigned his chairmanship of the Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, and pledged to be president of all Egyptians and to pursue the goals of the uprising.
Obstacles to change
Instead, he has adopted the Brotherhood’s agenda. He had promised to appoint a Christian and a woman as vice-presidents but named Mahmoud Mekki, a Muslim supporter of the Brotherhood. His choice of prime minister, Hisham Qandil, is a Brotherhood backer. Brotherhood sympathisers were appointed to other official posts and into the administration.
For a brief period in August Morsi regained the admiration of Egyptians of all political persuasions by retiring the military chiefs, regarded by “revolutionaries” as obstacles to change. He also stripped the military command of executive and legislative powers it had assumed after Mr Mubarak’s fall.
In November he mediated a ceasefire between Hamas, which rules Gaza, and Israel, again securing wide approval. However, in trying to ensure the adoption by referendum of a constitution drafted by a Brotherhood-dominated commission, he gave himself unlimited authority to legislate without judicial review, and fixed a date for the vote on the constitution. He was accused by the opposition of seeking to become Egypt’s new pharaoh.
Tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against the controversial constitution and Morsi’s new powers. Armed elements loyal to the Brotherhood clashed with protesters, creating a cycle of violent unrest that has undermined security, driven away investors and tourists, and sent the economy into freefall.
Attacks on protesters
Scores of protesters have been killed, hundreds wounded and arrested. Women taking part in protests face beatings and rape as well as widespread harassment in the streets. Ultraconserative Salafis, freed from constraints by the new regime, assault Christians, Sufis and Shias and preach holy war.
This week Salafi incitement led to an attack on Shias in a village near Cairo in which five houses were burned and four Shias beaten to death.
Meanwhile, the courts, stocked with judges from the Mubarak era, have dismissed cases against soldiers and security personnel accused of killing and abusing protesters during the 18-day rising in 2011. Businessmen and officials charged with corruption have also been freed.
Mubarak resides in Tora prison hospital, awaiting a decision on an appeal against his life sentence for failing to prevent the killing of 846 protesters during the uprising.
While insisting on the legitimacy of Morsi’s election, the army has warned that it could intervene if his camp and the opposition fail to reach an accommodation. The Brotherhood and the Salafis have threatened to fight a coup against the president.
Instead of launching a revolution to benefit all Egyptians, the 2011 uprising has deeply polarised the country between religious conservatives and modern-minded secularists.