The president is failing to deliver on his promises, and Egyptians are growing angry with the Muslim Brotherhood.
On a busy Cairo street on a June night, two twentysomething women stood facing oncoming cars, each holding a banner. The first read “tamarod” – in reference to the “rebel” movement collecting signatures of citizens opposed to President Mohamed Morsi. The other banner read: “If you want Morsi to leave, honk your horn.” The air was filled with the sound of horns.
A similar noise had filled the capital a year earlier, on the announcement that Morsi won the presidential elections over Ahmed Shafik. Many viewed Morsi’s win as a victory for the revolution because Shafik was a Mubarak-era minister and prime minister, and a former member of the army that has assumed an undemocratic role in Egypt’s politics and economy since 1952.
Then, the Muslim Brotherhood allied with a segment of the revolutionary forces named the National Front. The Front campaigned for the Brotherhood’s then-candidate in return for pledges he made. Their role was decisive given the slim victory he obtained – hardly 51% of the votes. Today, almost all of them have turned against the president. Morsi’s opponents are accused by Brotherhood members, as well as by international observers, of not accepting democracy and election’s results.
Although this concern is understandable, Egypt’s reality is more complicated. From the beginning, Morsi failed to meet the pledges he made in the historic Fairmont agreement held with the National Front. Such pledges included forming a “national salvation” government. He didn’t even meet with the Front again after the initial meeting held following his victory. Every time they tried to meet him they were told he was busy, according to the Front’s spokeswoman Dr Heba Raouf.
Step by step, Morsi turned his back to the revolution. He formed temporary alliances with the interior ministry accused of killing protesters; with the military responsible for the deaths of protesters in the months that followed Mubarak’s ousting; and with the businessmen accused of corruption under Mubarak. Instead of restructuring the interior ministry, Morsi praised it, saying that the police was “at the heart” of the revolution. And instead of holding the army responsible for the deaths of protesters under military rule, Morsi said it “protected the revolution”.
This could have been tolerated if Morsi’s rule had brought prosperity to Egyptians. In an ailing economy, the quality of life has worsened, with rising poverty and unemployment, frequent power cuts and gasoline shortages – all topped by rising crime rates. The movement that brags about being 80 years old and having a grassroots outreach has demonstrated that it is not qualified to run the country.
Morsi’s supporters argue it is too early to judge his performance, that one year is not enough to solve problems inherited from Mubarak’s 30-year rule, with many of the corrupt state apparatuses still refusing to bend to his successor’s will. But Morsi has not shown signs that he has a workable plan for handling those problems. Egyptians could have stood behind him in such a fight if he had engaged them. He comes up with vague conspiracy theories: “Whoever sticks his finger inside Egypt, I will cut it off. I see the fingers of people getting inside who have no value in this world,” he said in March, without specifying who these people were.
His supporters again point to the remnants of Mubarak’s regime. But Morsi leaves his opponents mind-boggled by appointing many leading figures from that very regime as ministers and governors.
Egyptian society is marred by division. By repeatedly addressing his supporters alone at their rallies in times of nation-wide tensions, Morsi has helped deepen such division. Amid the Ittihadiya events, he implicitly endorsed his supporters’ attack on a sit-in waged by anti-Morsi protesters.
While many Egyptians hope that the man and his movement will reap on 30 June – when massive protests have been planned – what they have sown throughout the past year. Some observers still hope that the opposition will pursues “democratic mechanisms” – building their ranks and waiting until the elections in three years’ time. The latter would have been a viable option if Morsi’s rule had been democratic. The prosecution, headed by a Morsi appointee, has warranted the arrest of influential activists able to mobilise organised opposition, including Ahmed Maher of the National Front, the group that helped Morsi come to power. Charges tend to include “inciting protests” and “insulting the president”.
Morsi was elected before a constitution specifying his powers and the nature of his post was drafted. After he became president, he sponsored and endorsed a constitution with fundamentally undemocratic articles legalising military tribunals for civilians and giving the military and its budget special status above public accountability. This makes talk of democracy unreasonable. A look back at 2011 reminds us that the revolution erupted to save a country and a people from falling apart. That took priority over “democratic means”, even if democracy was an ultimate goal. If it is still an ultimate goal, it is one that cannot be achieved under the rule of the undemocratic organisation that is the Muslim Brotherhood.