Representatives of the Salafist Nour Party launched a scathing attack on President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in the Shura Council this week, writes Gamal Essam El-Din. Other Islamist forces, including the Wasat Party, joined in the criticism, taking Morsi’s administration to task for Egypt’s worsening political crisis and warning that Egypt will remain on edge until a national salvation government is appointed and there are serious attempts to hold a national dialogue.
Non-Brotherhood Islamist forces launched their criticism of Morsi on 10 February, during a Shura Council debate on clashes outside the presidential palace in Cairo and in several other governorates. They singled out Morsi’s recently appointed Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim for particular opprobrium, accusing him of using the same repressive tactics as the Mubarak regime.
“The Morsi-appointed government of Hisham Kandil has run out of steam and lost all credibility,” said the Nour’s Tarek Al-Sihari, deputy speaker of the Shura Council. “Under this government the lives of Egyptian citizens are deemed worthless.”
“It has become clear that Kandil has little control over his government and lacks any economic or political vision for the country’s future,” Al-Sihari continued. “His government has to go, and go quickly, to be replaced by a national salvation government capable of organising free and democratic parliamentary elections.”
The Nour’s official spokesman Abdallah Badran joined the attack, wondering out loud “why President Morsi does not want to be a president for all Egyptians and why he is unaware that his policies are to blame for the proliferation of violence across Egypt.”
Mohamed Abdel-Latif, secretary-general of the Wasat party, accused Morsi of being ultimately responsible for the poor performance of the Kandil government and the repressive policies of the Interior Ministry. “This government has done a great deal of harm and is poised to cause more disaster and chaos,” he said.
Abdel-Hamid Barakat, spokesman of the Islamist Labour Party, also charged that Morsi should bear the “responsibility for the failure of Kandil’s government to bring political and economic stability”.
“Kandil has repeatedly refused to come to the Shura Council to explain his unsuccessful strategies,” complained Nagi Al-Shehabi, chairman of the liberal Geel (Generation) Party. “He has done nothing to contain the repressive practices of the Interior Ministry, including the torture of opposition activists while being detained in Central Security Force camps. His government refuses to answer the council’s questions about the deaths of a number of political protesters.”
Hilaslasi Mikhael, spokesman of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, charged that “the policies of President Mohamed Morsi are tailored exclusively to serve the political interests of the Muslim Brotherhood” and that the president has done nothing substantial to “confront those radical clerics who issue fatwas calling for the killing of the regime’s political opponents”.
Muslim Brotherhood MPs rallied to Ibrahim’s defence. Sobhi Saleh, a leading figure in the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and deputy chairman of the Shura Council’s Legislative Committee, argued that “Article 199 of the new constitution entrusts police forces with guaranteeing the security and dignity of citizens, and in this respect the Interior Ministry has the right to ask for a new anti-protest law with the objective of clamping down on violent protests.” He condemned those who criticised the police and their tactics, insisting “the Shura Council should not be a place for political opportunism at a critical time of Egypt’s history” before heaping praise on Ibrahim, “the first interior minister in recent history to apologise for the beating of an ordinary citizen”.
He also urged Ibrahim to punish police officers who refuse to do their job “simply because they do not want to serve President Morsi”.
Essam Al-Erian, another FJP official, said “police forces are not in need for new tougher laws. The existing laws are quite enough but security forces are urged to use them to confront violent acts and armed thugs,” argued Al-Erian.
Abdel-Fattah Othman, deputy interior minister for public security, said that “the Interior Ministry stands firm and will never let protesters storm the presidential palace.”
“President Morsi is a democratically elected president and police forces are there to defend the legitimacy of this president,” he continued, leading several MPs to point out that the security forces should focus their attention on protecting the state, not the regime.
“The number of citizens who have died in violent confrontations since 25 January is at least 60, three of them policemen,” said Othman, “and the number of people arrested is 966.”
Othman blamed the increase in violent clashes on the proliferation of illegal arms: “Weapons coming from neighbouring countries are contributing to the chaos. In Port Said, for example, we faced armed groups using rockets and grenades in an attempt to storm the city’s prison complex.”
Othman denied that policemen had tortured political activists in Central Security Force camps and repeated the official version of the circumstances leading to the death of political activist Mohamed Al-Guindi.
“All we know,” claimed Othman, “is that he was hit by a car in Tahrir Square on 27 January and taken to Al-Helal hospital where he died.
“The Interior Ministry does not use the camps of Central Security Forces to torture political activists. We have allowed representatives of civil society organisations and the prosecution authorities to visit these camps and none of them have found evidence of abuse.”
Othman sharply criticised satellite television channels for “distorting facts and failing to broadcast the viewpoints of the Interior Ministry”.