Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1302, (30 June - 13 July 2016)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1302, (30 June - 13 July 2016)

Ahram Weekly

30 June, three years later

Although Egypt is more secure three years after the 30 June Revolution, it still faces a number of tough challenges, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

30 June 2013
30 June 2013
Al-Ahram Weekly

Today Egypt marks the third anniversary of the 30 June Revolution. On that day in 2013 millions of Egyptians flooded the streets of Cairo and other major cities to protest against the rule of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and his affiliated Muslim Brotherhood.

Three days later, on 3 July, representatives from most political forces, including the grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the pope of the Orthodox Church, and then army chief Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi — who would later become president — met in Al-Ittihadiya Presidential Palace to announce the end of Morsi’s rule. They also announced that Adli Mansour, the then chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court, had been named interim president.

Three years later political analysts agree that the major objective of the 30 June Revolution — preventing Egypt from becoming a theocratic state — has been met. But they also agree that the revolution’s other objective — moving Egypt towards a civilian-led democratic nation — has yet to be realised.

Ahmed Bahaaeddin Shaaban, a high-profile political activist, argues that the 30 June Revolution saved Egypt from becoming another Syria or Libya.

“When you see how the Muslim Brotherhood rode the waves of revolutions in these two countries and how it, alongside other radical Islamist groups, turned them into civil wars, you thank God that Egypt moved early to save itself from this tragic fate,” Shaaban told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Shaaban also agrees that Al-Sisi, who was elected president in May 2014, has successfully confronted the hostile reaction to the 30 June Revolution in American and European circles.

“Through a number of visits to the UN in New York and to several European and Asian capitals, Al-Sisi was able to change the West’s early view of the revolution as a military coup, and even project Egypt as a major front against Islamist militant groups, especially Islamic State, the terrorist group that took control of large swathes of land in Syria in the wake of the Arab Spring,” Shaaban said.

In a speech on foreign policy in New York on 22 June, presumptive US Republican nominee Donald Trump accused US President Barack Obama and his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic Party candidate, of helping force out a friendly regime in Egypt and replacing it with the radical Muslim Brotherhood.

“The Egyptian military has retaken control but Clinton has opened Pandora’s box of radical Islam,” Trump said.

Hassan Abu Taleb, an Ahram political analyst, was not surprised when Trump described the Muslim Brotherhood in his speech as “radical”. “We even saw during the early US presidential debates that many nominees like Ted Cruz vowed that if they reached power they would designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation,” said Abu Taleb.

In a visit to Cairo in April, high-profile Republican Senator Lindsey Graham described President Al-Sisi as “the right man at the right time”. In one presidential debate, Graham even apologised for having described Egypt’s 30 June Revolution as a military coup.

“The pro-Al-Sisi positions among a lot of American Republican politicians should not blind us to the fact that hostile reactions to Egypt since 30 June are still strong in Western liberal circles, and in countries like Turkey and Qatar where the Brotherhood is still a major force,” Abu Taleb cautioned.

Abu Taleb agrees that these hostile positions have forced President Al-Sisi to open channels with friendly powers like Russia, China and France. “Not only did the leaders of these three powers pay historic visits to Cairo and conclude landmark military and economic agreements but send a message to the US that Washington is no longer Egypt’s main partner,” he said.

 Most political analysts agree that Al-Sisi was highly successful on the foreign and anti-terrorism fronts, but believe that he has done poorly on the domestic front, especially in the area of democratisation and political freedoms.

Shawki Al-Sayed, a prominent lawyer and a former independent MP, told the Weekly that although a new constitution was passed in January 2014 and a new parliament was elected in January 2016, Egypt has not gone far enough along the democratic path.

“This is not so much due to Al-Sisi as it is due to the fragility of Egypt’s political forces. It will take some time until they become strong,” Al-Sayed said.

“Al-Sisi’s regime has not paid enough attention to respecting human rights,” said Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat, chairman of parliament’s Human Rights Committee. “This is quite clear in the 2013 protest law which led to putting dozens of young political activists in jail simply for joining peaceful street demonstrations against Egypt for ceding two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.”

Al-Sadat recalls that most of the laws stipulated by the 2014 liberal constitution as a necessary step towards a civilian democratic state have not yet been issued. “The constitution said there should be more liberal laws on protests, political parties, the media and the press but all these are still in limbo,” said Al-Sadat.

Al-Sadat also believes that the confrontation between the Interior Ministry and the Press Syndicate has added more salt to the country’s political wounds. “We are trying in the Human Rights Committee to exercise supervision on the Interior Ministry to make sure that it will not go back to the pre-2011 police state practices which led to the revolution against [former president Hosni] Mubarak,” he said.

Many activists, including prominent sociologist Saadeddin Ibrahim, have expressed fears that the war against terrorism might have led to placing too much power in the hands of the Interior Ministry. Ibrahim argues that there should be some sort of reconciliation between the Al-Sisi regime and the Muslim Brotherhood.

“This is necessary to create a climate favourable to democracy and political diversity,” Ibrahim said last month.

But Al-Sadat, Abu Taleb and Shaaban believe that Ibrahim’s reconciliation initiative could complicate and even worsen domestic tension rather than help the country. “The problem is that the Muslim Brotherhood’s battle is not only with Al-Sisi but with different sectors like Christians, judges and policemen,” said Shaaban.

On the economic front, most analysts agree that Egypt still faces a tough situation.

“Despite all the economic assistance given to Egypt by Arab Gulf countries — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait — in the form of tens of billions of dollars, it has not yet fully recovered from its five-year-old economic crisis,” said Hussein Eissa, chairman of parliament’s Plan and Budget Committee.

Eissa agrees that the crash of a Russian passenger jet over Sinai in October last year, which killed 224 passengers and crew, dealt a huge blow to Egypt’s economy. “It was not just a terrorist act, but also an economic crime that cost Egypt billions of dollars,” said Eissa.

“It led to at least a 50 per cent drop in foreign tourist traffic and a loss by at least 40 per cent in the value of the Egyptian pound on the black market. This means tough economic conditions for the majority of Egyptians who have become unable to meet their basic needs.”

In its report on the country’s 2016-2017 budget, the committee estimated that Egypt has suffered a 23 per cent decline in the official exchange rate since 2014, a 50 per cent increase in foreign debt and a loss of around $5 billion in dollar revenues.

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