Egyptian activists take to streets ahead of poll


Secular Egyptians are set to return to the streets across the country today in a bid to convince voters to say No in the second round on Saturday of the referendum on the contested draft constitution.

However, the secular camp admits that mass action is not the solution for Egypt’s political ills following the 2011 fall of president Hosni Mubarak.

Youssef (22), an educated activist, is deeply disappointed with the outcome of the uprising. “We are now in a revolutionary climate . . . not yet a revolution. The first phase of the uprising – getting rid of Mubarak – was easy. The second step, ousting the military, was more difficult.

“The third phase,” which began with the election of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi as president, “is the most difficult of all. He has the legitimacy of being elected and a popular base. He is taking over all the institutions of the state. His regime is another version of the old regime. So far, our revolution has failed to materialise.”

Youssef boycotted the referendum’s first round last Saturday. “I have not voted over the past year and a half. I refuse to play the game,” as its rules were initially set by the military and then by the Brotherhood and its Salafi allies.

The military high command, which took power after Mr Mubarak was ousted, “decided how to proceed with the transition,” said Youssef.

“It should have drawn up a new constitution before holding elections for the parliament and president. Now we are in a mess. Parliament has been dissolved and cannot check the president and there is no constitution to impose control on him.”

Youssef expressed the concern of many Egyptians when he said the fundamentalists continue to operate in concert with the military which permitted Mr Morsi to assume presidential powers in August.

There is no revolutionary youth figure capable of challenging the Brotherhood. So far, opposition leaders have been mainly elderly or middle-aged politicians who were absent or marginalised during the Mubarak era.

Youssef said he follows Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, co-ordinator of the 10-faction National Salvation Front.

But analyst Mona Anis said Dr ElBaradei had become “stubborn and confrontational. We need a leader who can bridge the gulf between Islamists and secularists”. Although a staunch secularist, she favours Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a defected Muslim Brother who is both popular and progressive.