June 30: Egypt’s Day of Reckoning?

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The Egyptian opposition has designated June 30 as a day of mass protests and demonstrations against the current president and the Muslim Brotherhood in general. The ostensible purpose of the protests is to force President Mohamed Morsi to resign. Mr. Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood officials have shown no signs that they have any intention of satisfying those demands. Instead, they are gearing for a pushback against the protests which many predict will bring the country to the brink of chaos.

Al Ahram’s Gamal Essam El-Din notes that the criticism against Mr. Morsi has been unrelenting from the start of his administration exactly one year ago, only intensifying following the recent appointment of numerous Muslim Brotherhood supporters to various powerful positions: “The Muslim Brotherhood emerged as the biggest winner in this week’s reshuffle of provincial governors. On 16 June President Mohamed Morsi decided that the group from which he hails should receive the lion’s share of provincial governorates. Of 17 new governors appointed by Morsi, nine hail from the Muslim Brotherhood or are Brotherhood sympathizers….Faced with growing protests, says Zahran, Morsi has adopted a double-edged policy, toeing Washington’s line while mobilizing the forces of political Islam against the secular opposition.”

For many, the current discontent against the Muslim Brotherhood and its policies is evidence that the Brotherhood and Mr. Morsi misinterpreted the June 2012 mandate. For this reason, Asharq Alawsat’s Tariq Alhomayed believes the MB have only themselves to blame for their current predicament: “Regardless of the results of the forthcoming 30 June demonstrations in Egypt, and whether the opposition succeeds in toppling the president or not, reality says the Muslim Brotherhood’s project in Egypt has failed, and that the Brotherhood will suffer from this failure for many  years, in Egypt and the region….what history is going to remember is that the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was caused by the Muslim Brotherhood themselves, not their enemies, internally and externally, especially when the Brotherhood decided to rule Egypt with a group mentality, and governed it like an opposition, not a political authority.”

But Mahmoud Salem cautions that, even in the unlikely event that the June 30 protests push the Muslim Brotherhood out of power, that will not mean the end of the Islamist influence in Egyptian politics: “Egypt is on the brink, and everyone’s nerves are frazzled. Everyone is both optimistic, and yet terrified about the outcome of 30 June. Given that this is a day of an unlikely alliance between the social conservatives (old regime supporters), the revolutionaries and the independents, anything could happen…. If this revolution succeeds, it might mean the end of the Muslim Brotherhood, but not the end of the Islamists, who are a significant percentage of the population whether anyone likes it or not.”

Given the very real potential for violence, some are hoping that perhaps Mr. Morsi will read the tealeaves and bow out rather than respond with violence against the protesters. In an op-ed for the Daily News (Egypt), H. A. Hellyer explores some of the possible scenarios that could follow the June 30 protests: “It feels like a day of reckoning for a reason, because it is one….In the days and weeks ahead, with different degrees of certainty and likelihood, the possibilities abound: military intervention, violence, social upheaval, deepening political polarization, and economic degradation. There is one man that can avoid the worst of it, and minimize the damage of the rest….He happens to be the same man who actually won those elections a year ago on 30 June, and who now occupies the office of the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.”

However, it seems unlikely Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood will heed the demands of the protesters. Instead there are indications the MB is organizing what Al-Masry Al-Youm (Egypt) calls ‘vigiliante groups’ to counter the protesters: “Islamist groups have revealed plans to form vigilante justice groups ahead of 30 June demonstrations. The groups will be formed with the aim of protecting state facilities and countering potential violence as Islamist supporters and largely secular opponents of President Mohamed Morsy prepare to take to the streets at the end of the month….Khaled Saeed, official spokesperson for Egypt’s Salafi Front, said policing groups ‘will clear the streets of thugs and thieves who make use of protests to rob citizens and institutions.’ According to Saeed, those groups will offer emergency call services to be circulated during protests to provide assistance to citizens subject to harm or danger.”

Meanwhile, according the MB webiste Ikhan Web the spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood has accused the opposition of providing political cover for violent elements within Egyptian society: “Dr. Ahmed Aref, Muslim Brotherhood media spokesman, expressed deep concern, regretting the failure of certain Egyptian opposition parties and movements to condemn violence and vandalism….’The opposition has become a camp for thugs and criminals, providing them with support and flimsy political cover enabling them to commit acts of violence and sabotage, terrorizing citizens in the name of the revolution and its objectives. Evidently, this opposition has totally forgotten that the strength of the revolution was in its peaceful in nature.’”

Not everyone is convinced that protests or vigilante groups are the best way forward for Egypt’s deadlocked political system. Al Ahram’s Abdel-Moneim Said expresses concern about the long term impact of the post June 30 developments on the Egyptian political process and economic situation: “Both have failed to consider how the next regime will be more capable in solving the Egyptian dilemmas at the time of change. No one knows whether or not the time of change will come. It is known that the time of change will result from a political and constitutional crisis that has stifled the Egyptians throughout the past months….Whatever its aim, the June 30 protests will not improve the Egyptian political process, which has become so chaotic that it is no longer possible to distinguish between the ‘former’ and the ‘current’ regimes or between those who are guilty and those who are innocent.

Similarly, the Saudi Gazette editorial suggests the best way forward for the Egyptian economy is dialogue between the opposing political forces: “Egypt’s economy has been declining since the revolution. Unrest is chasing away investors and tourists. Foreign currency reserves are half of what they were under Mubarak. The country’s stock exchange hit an 11-month low last week and the Egyptian pound has fallen by 10 percent since last year. Without active cooperation from all sections of the people, the government will not be able to tackle grave economic problems. But to win opposition backing, Morsi has to address their concerns over human rights and pluralism. He has to reassure Christian and secular Egyptians.”

There is, of course, the possibility of long term political gridlock, which, according the Gulf Times editorial, suggests the need for a non-partisan solution and leadership: “President Mohammed Mursi is challenging those who are calling for his resignation and new election. Heard during a protest in Cairo was a call on the powerful military to take control of the country’s affairs in what was seen as a reflection of rising resentment against the Mursi government. Particularly fuelling public anger was a series of appointments of provincial governors by Mursi that critics say were ill advised….In any event, post-revolt Egypt is in bad shape and it needs a clear-headed and non-partisan leadership to lead the country out of the crises it faces. So far, the Muslim Brotherhood-influenced government has failed to show it is capable of doing so. And this means more troubles and dangers ahead for the people of Egypt.”

Ultimately, the Khaleej Times editorial points out, the organizers of the June 30 protesters will need to come to terms with the fact that Mr. Morsi came to office through the will of the people expressed in democratic elections: “The fight for a democratic Egypt, that its people waged 2 years ago, wasn’t just a struggle to get rid of Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-old dictatorship. It was a fight for better economic opportunities and social mobility….Their struggle appeared to have paid off when Mubarak resigned and his regime crumbled. But that the factors that had made Egyptians to make so many sacrifices for a political overhaul of their country still remain pressing concerns….The Egyptians need to show patience for ideological differences. Regardless of its imperfections and failings, the current government is a legitimate, elected government and Egypt’s gung-ho protesters need to come to terms with this fact.”

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Middle East In Focus is a synopsis of commentary and news from Middle Eastern and other international media. Its purpose is to provide a succinct and balanced summary of the main developments and views that are often overlooked or not properly reflected in the U.S. media. For the most recent collection of articles on and from the Middle East, please go to: http://mepc.org/articles-commentary/articles-hub. Comments and feedback are welcome at info@mepc.org.


  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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