Egypt Braced for More Violence – FT

Opponents of the Egyptian president wave national flags outside the presidential palace

Egyptians braced themselves for the beginning of a potentially bloody period of confrontation between opponents and supporters of the nation’s Islamist government on the one-year anniversary of the country’s first democratic presidential elections.

At least three people, including an American college student working as an English teacher, have already been killed in violence during the run-up to large anti-government rallies planned for Sunday. Offices of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party have been set ablaze across the country, and fiery street battles have erupted in the

both the mostly Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Morsi and leftist, liberal and secular opponents under the banner of the movement called Tamarod, or Rebellion, have called on their ranks to take to the streets on Sunday in public shows of people power.

Leaders of both camps have called for peace, but they hold little sway over angry young men gearing up for battle with clubs and helmets ahead of an anti-government protest in front of the Ittihadiya presidential palace.

“We’re just going to be at Ittihadiya to make sure that everyone is going to be represented,” Abdul Razzak Kamel Abdullah, a 47-year-old construction worker attending a pro-Morsi rally this weekend, said.

“Just like Tamarod is representing themselves and representing their views we want to be there. We want it to be peaceful but every time we go down, it’s violent.”

With support from slivers of the left and liberals, Mr Morsi one year ago narrowly beat a stalwart of President Hosni Mubarak’s deposed regime to become Egypt’s first elected president. But many deem his performance on the economy and reforming institutions a failure. They accuse him and his Islamist allies of trying to make up for his missteps and inaction by implementing a hardline agenda that satisfies his political supporters.

Islamists accuse their liberal opponents of wanting to negate a legitimate election. Mostly Islamist pro-Morsi protesters, often arriving from the provinces on buses, have camped out in front of a mosque in eastern Cairo just a few kilometres from the presidential palace.

There were signs that the Islamist government was rattled by the coming confrontation. Several privately owned television channels reported receiving official letters from the state authority that owns their studios warning them not to air material “contrary to principles and morality of society” or risk losing access to broadcast facilities.

A controversial prosecutor appointed by Mr Morsi announced that he was reopening investigations into allegations that prominent liberal and secular opposition leaders – including former Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei and former foreign minister Amr Moussa – who were calling for protests were plotting a coup.

Meanwhile, Mr Morsi’s opponents gathered for a second day in a row on Saturday in Tahrir Square, holding up banners saying, “Down with the rule of the guide,” in reference to the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood.

Leaders of the loosely organised Tamarod movement said they had accumulated 22m signatures demanding early presidential elections to recall Mr Morsi. “Mohamed Morsi is no longer the legitimate president of Egypt,” Mohamed Abdelaziz, a spokesman for Tamarod, declared during a televised press appearance.

Two and a half years after its 2011 revolution, Egyptians are suffering through deep malaise brought on by a stagnant economy and crumbling institutions.

A poll conducted by Zogby Research Services showed that Islamists and the secular opposition both have about a third of the public’s confidence while nearly 40 per cent has confidence in neither. Less than 30 per cent of more than 5,000 Egyptians polled said they supported the presidency of Mr Morsi, down from nearly 60 per cent just after his election.

More than 60 per cent of Egyptians say they are worse off now than they were five years ago, compared with about a quarter in 2009 and 46 per cent in 2011, according to the survey.

 

Source: The Financial Times

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