President Mohamed Mursi refused to deliver the usual accolades on the 60th anniversary of the 23 July Revolution, writes Reem Leila
In his 22 July speech marking the 60th anniversary of the 23 July Revolution President Mohamed Mursi said the 1952 Revolution represented a turning point in Egypt's history despite its failure to accomplish many of the objectives it set itself. He praised the 25 January Revolution for correcting the path of its predecessor.
"The 1952 coup d'état stumbled in many of its goals, especially in establishing democracy in the last 30 years, largely as a result of corruption and fraud," said Mursi. "The second revolution of 25 January 2011 corrected the path."
The speech was delivered as the Muslim Brotherhood and the military continue to squabble over the post-25 January dispensation of power. Mursi, who hails from the Brotherhood, praised the army for its role in protecting the revolution. "The great Egyptian army supported the people's choice in building a second republic on the basis of democracy and real freedom for all," he claimed.
Mustafa Bakri, editor-in-chief of Al-Osbou newspaper and a former MP, took Mursi to task for what he claimed was a lack of respect for the leaders of the 1952 Revolution. "If it was not for the 1952 Revolution Mursi and his peers would not have been in the position they are in today. Egypt desperately needs another leader like [Gamal Abdel-] Nasser."
Immediately after winning the presidential elections Mursi delivered a speech in Tahrir Square in which he singled out the 1960s as a dark decade in Egypt's recent history, one in which the Muslim Brotherhood was marginalised and mistreated by the authorities.
But the 1960s, argues Bakri, "was the era during which the Nasser regime established free education".
"It was because of Nasser that Mursi and his associates managed to go to school and get educated. Nasser's regime provided peasants and farmers with their rights. Nasser distributed agricultural lands among peasants for free. This is the 1960s that the president is criticising."
Mursi, says Bakri, should forget his long standing membership of the Brotherhood and act as the president of all Egyptians. "He should have mentioned Nasser in his speech. Instead, he spoke routinely, as if it was a chore he was forced to do for the sake of protocol."
The omission will have rankled with the hundreds of citizens who joined a host of political figures at Nasser's tomb to mark the anniversary of the 23 July Revolution. Young attendees sang patriotic songs dating to Nasser's time and chanted slogans against the Muslim Brotherhood and its supreme guide, Mohamed Badie.
Mustafa El-Sayed, professor of political science at the American University in Cairo, disagrees with Bakri. Mursi's speech, he argues, reflected the new president's growing political maturity, representing a departure from the positions stated earlier in Tahrir Square.
"He was objective when he mentioned the 23 July Revolution. It is true that it succeeded in accomplishing some of its goals and failed in the others. Nobody can deny that."
"I hope the January Revolution will continue what the July Revolution missed."
"The January Revolution can be considered a continuation of that of 1952," El-Sayed continued. "It aims to improve the welfare of Egyptians, after all."
Ahmed Maher, one of the founders of 6 April movement, wrote on his Facebook page that the military were the greatest beneficiaries of the 1952 Revolution. In its wake they acquired vast economic holdings, and now dominate huge swathes of the national economy.
Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi celebrated the anniversary in Tahrir Square where he praised Nasser for leading the July Revolution and hailed the continuation of the revolutionary spirit. Sabahi refused to comment on the details of Mursi's speech, telling reporters that "no one can stop the country from celebrating this national occasion".
Lawyers' Syndicate head Sameh Ashour commented that the Muslim Brotherhood's disdain for the 1952 Revolution does not make it any less important.
"Both revolutions, July and January, have the same goals. They want social justice and freedom for all Egyptians," said Ashour.