Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)
Wednesday,13 December, 2017
Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Opposition gears up for the big day

As the Muslim Brotherhood and its opponents gear up for confrontation, Khaled Dawoud wonders whether Egypt’s fate will be decided on 30 June

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The build-up to major demonstrations demanding early presidential elections planned for Sunday 30 June has already started in Cairo and major cities.

A loose coalition of liberal, leftist and nationalist parties, gathered since November under the umbrella of the National Salvation Front (NSF), and more than two dozen youth movements and coalitions have been holding non-stop meetings this week to coordinate for “the big day”, discussing possible scenarios and plans, all aimed at mobilising the largest numbers of Egyptians to deliver a clear message that they’ve had enough of President Mohamed Morsi’s failures and want to go to the ballot box to elect a new president. The largest protests on Sunday are expected to take place in front of Al-Ittihadiya presidential palace in Heliopolis, and in Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the 25 January 2011 Revolution that ended Hosni Mubarak’s three decades in power.

Morsi’s opponents argue his policies have divided the country and are tailored solely to allow the Muslim Brotherhood to establish a new, religiously-tinged dictatorship. In recent rallies held by Morsi’s supporters, including a major demonstration on 21 June, they have warned they will not stand idly by and watch attempts to remove Morsi.

Brotherhood supporter Safwat Hegazi told the crowd they were ready to “spill blood” to defend Morsi. He launched a fierce attack against the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, for issuing a statement declaring that demonstrations against the country’s ruler were not against the teachings of Islam. Hegazi also criticised Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church, alleging the Church was calling upon Christians to take part in anti-Morsi demonstrations. Hegazi’s inflammatory statements were denounced by secular parties opposed to Morsi as an attempt to ignite sectarian strife.

Mohamed Al-Beltagui, a leading Brotherhood figure, claims the secular opposition wants the army to take over power despite the fact that the army’s 60-year rule of Egypt brought nothing but defeats, including the occupation of Sinai, the West Bank, Gaza and Syria’s Golan Heights in 1967.

A carefully-worded statement issued on Sunday by Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, warned that the army would not allow the country to slide into chaos and raised serious questions about where the army would stand should bloody clashes erupt between Morsi’s supporters and his opponents on 30 June.

Both the NSF and the Brotherhood issued statements praising Al-Sisi’s words as each scrambled to give its own interpretation of his statement. Some Islamists were clearly not convinced by the gloss. Sheikh Hazem Salah Abu Ismail said Al-Sisi’s statement was part of a “conspiracy” to oust Morsi.

The defence minister said the military would not tolerate any more insults against its leaders or the role it has played in protecting Egypt’s security, a clear reference to Al-Beltagui’s attack on the army’s record. Al-Sisi also proposed opposing political forces should work together to forge a compromise ahead of Sunday though no calls for direct talks between the two sides had been issued by the defence minister as of Wednesday, when Al-Ahram Weekly went to press. An NSF leader speaking to the Weekly on condition of anonymity explained that the coalition “would not respond for a call for a meeting with Morsi though we are ready to explain our views to the defence minister if he so desires”.

Though Morsi announced he would deliver a major speech yesterday — scheduled after the Weekly goes to press — NSF leaders and major opposition figures say it is too late for the president to come up with new initiatives. On Saturday NSF Coordinator-General and President of the Dostour Party Mohamed Al-Baradei openly called on Morsi to resign “in order to restore the goals of Egypt’s 25 January Revolution: bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity”. Nobel Peace Prize winner Al-Baradei said he was not against political Islamic groups per se but opposed their attempts to impose their  version of Islam on all Egyptians and exclude anyone who does not belong to their group.

Hossam Moenes, a member of both Al-Tayar Al-Shaabi — led by former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi — and of the newly created “30 June Coordination Committee”, told the Weekly they planned to watch Morsi’s speech on a big screen in Tahrir Square, a reminder of the 25 January Revolution when Egyptians followed the speeches made by Hosni Mubarak on a similar screen.

“It is very unlikely that Morsi will come up with anything that could persuade us to cancel the major protests planned for 30 June or abandon our demand for early presidential elections,” says Abdel-Gelil Mustafa, leading NSF figure and former president of the National Association for Change. “His time is almost up.”

Mustafa points out that Morsi has rejected all opposition demands in the past, refusing to appoint a new prime minister, remove his prosecutor-general or agree to guarantees for a fair and free election law. “Morsi deliberately courts confrontation. We ask for fewer Brotherhood ministers in the cabinet and he adds four more. We seek a discussion on the election law and he insists on rushing laws full of loopholes through the Brotherhood-controlled Shura Council. He doesn’t listen to anyone, and only follows orders coming from the Guidance Bureau of the Brotherhood.”

The Tamarod campaign, which sparked a new wave of protests against the Brotherhood simply by asking Egyptians two months ago to sign a petition demanding early presidential elections, announced on Saturday that it had exceeded its target of 15 million signatures, more than the 13 million votes that secured Morsi the presidency.

Tamarod coordinator Mahmoud Badr says a “political roadmap” of what should happen if Morsi is forced to call early presidential elections will soon to be announced. In recent statements, Al-Baradei revealed opposition parties have discussed the possibility that the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court take over as honorary president for a transitional, six-month period, supported by a government that will focus on improving the economy and security. The six-month transition would otherwise be used to draft a new constitution ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections.

While Morsi’s opponents have been holding daily protests to mobilise for Sunday’s demonstrations, the Brotherhood and 19 of its allies announced on Monday they would also hold their own “open-ended” rallies starting Friday 28 June. The announcement has provoked fears of clashes between the two sides.

A decision by Morsi two weeks ago to appoint 17 new governors, including seven leading Brotherhood figures in governorates mostly known for their opposition to the Brotherhood, only added fuel to fire. Almost daily clashes have been taking place between supporters of Morsi and his opponents in Gharbiya, Menoufiya, Qalioubiya, Daqahliya and Beheira. Crowds surrounded the headquarters of five governorates immediately after Morsi issued his decision, preventing the newly appointed officials from entering their offices.

Violent clashes have been reported in Alexandria, Fayoum, Ismailia and Sharqiya. On Monday night anti-Morsi protesters in Zagazig, capital of Sharqiya governorate, said seven were injured when Brotherhood members attacked their peaceful sit-in in front of the governor’s office. They said the attackers, dressed in helmets and carrying shields, used batons and shotguns.

A similar attack by suspected Brotherhood members took place in Alexandria on Monday night when intellectuals and artists staging a sit-in at Al-Raml Theatre in support of colleagues in Cairo who have been occupying the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture, were assaulted. One of the protesters said a group of 20 people suddenly attacked them with knives and buttons and set fire to nearby cabins overlooking the sea in an attempt to scare them off.

Eyebrows were raised worldwide when Morsi included Adel Al-Khayat among his newly appointed governors. A leading member of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, the group that claimed responsibility for the massacre of 58 tourists and four Egyptians in Luxor in 1997, Al-Khayat was named by Morsi as governor of Luxor. On Sunday Al-Khayat resigned the appointment, claiming he had decided to put the interest of the country first. Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou announced his own resignation when he heard the news of Al-Khayat’s appointment and major tourism companies threatened to cancel Luxor from their itineraries.

Walid Gibril, of the Dostour Party, told the Weekly that a rally was being planned for today — Thursday 27 June — in Sayeda Zeinab under the slogan “Failures”. Its aim, he said, will be to point out the myriad promises made, and broken, by Morsi.

On Friday, coinciding with an announced pro-Morsi rally in Nasr City, a demonstration under the title “no to the use of mosques as platforms for the Sultan” is to be held, says Gibril. The march will start from Al-Azhar Mosque and head towards Tahrir Square, warning against the use of mosques by the Brotherhood “to attack us, and claim the current struggle is between believers and non-believers”.

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