x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

New protests in Egypt show a determination for change

By launching what could be confidently described as "a second revolution", Egyptians are not only trying to topple an emerging dictatorship.

"One year is more than enough" was one of the slogans shouted by protesters across Egypt yesterday to urge the president, Mohammed Morsi, to resign.

Millions of Egyptians from different social, religious and political backgrounds rallied in Cairo and other main cities yesterday to put an end to the cumulative failures of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government before it is too late.

By launching what could be confidently described as "a second revolution", Egyptians are not only trying to topple an emerging dictatorship but also remove a rock that is standing in their path towards a liberal democratic state that safeguards civil rights and freedoms and respects the will of its citizens to decide their future. They are not calling for the mere resignation of the president but also for the setting of a date for new presidential elections as soon as possible.

"One year is more than enough" was also a statement made by Mr Morsi last Thursday in a plea for his opponents to stop criticising him through social and traditional media. The bottom line of the president's long and tedious speech was to affirm his legitimacy as an elected president and blame the people for not being patient enough, the local media for being biased and the members of the former regime who are either in jail or living abroad.

To challenge those false claims of legitimacy and deep state conspiracies, two points should be taken into consideration.

First, the people did not vote for Mr Morsi - who won with a very narrow margin - because they supported him but because they were scared to vote for the other candidate, Ahmed Shafik, who came from a military background and thus might have worked to prolong the process of transforming Egypt from a military state into a civil state.

I am an Egyptian revolutionary. I led a team of 7,000 people monitoring the presidential elections last year. And I can confidently say that the people did not vote for Mr Morsi because they wanted to reward the Brotherhood for their endurance and honesty.

On the contrary, the Brotherhood candidate received only 24.8 per cent in the first round. But in the second round, when Egyptians were left with a very tough choice between hell and fire, some chose the less awful option. Only 12 million people (our population is as large as 83.5 million people) voted for Mr Morsi.

Second, if the president's legitimacy is based on the fact that he won the presidential elections last year, tens of millions of petitions have been signed over the past three months calling for his immediate resignation. While that does not change the fact that he is an elected president, the numbers indicate he has not made good on his promises.

The persistence of Egyptians about removing the Brotherhood government has been clearly expressed through a massive petition-signing campaign under the name "Tamarod" or Rebel, which collected more than 22 million signatures in less than three months.

The petition calls upon the president to resign and for the constitutional court to decide on a date for early presidential elections. The number of those who signed the petition exceeds the number of those who voted for Mr Morsi last year - by at least 10 million people.

Democratically speaking, it makes perfect sense to go with the demands of the protesters and hold early presidential elections.

It is also noteworthy to remember that Egyptians are not opposing the Brotherhood because of their Islamic project as some of the leading members of the group claim.

Many of those protesting against Mr Morsi today are practising Muslims. But it is not the first time that the people in post-revolution Egypt have challenged a failing ruler. Last year, the popular pressure on the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scaf) pushed it to speed up the presidential elections.

The Egyptians who were pressuring Scaf to do that were the same ones who had proudly shouted slogans like "people and the army are one hand" allowing Scaf to take over after the fall of the Mubarak regime. When Scaf failed as a political leader, we took to the streets to ask it to hold presidential elections, in a scene very similar to what is happening today with the Brotherhood's failing government.

In July last year, only one month after Mr Morsi was elected, a survey conducted by the Ibn Khaldun Centre for Development Studies (IKC) showed that 40.3 per cent of Egyptians were satisfied with the performance of the president. During that month, Mr Morsi made an endless list of flowery promises that included improving our economic status and empowering women and religious minorities to take decision-making positions.

That is probably what made people more optimistic about the future and thus reflected on the indicator of satisfaction. In June of this year, however, on the first anniversary of Mr Morsi's rule, the satisfaction index showed an astonishing decline to 15 per cent.

No one knows where these protests are going to lead Egypt. But the persistence of the people in standing up against all attempts to establish a new dictatorship, whether autocratic or theocratic, brings a lot of positive hope to the heart.

Whatever the outcome may be, the new protests will be another example of determination that not only Egyptians but the whole world will remember.


Dalia Ziada is a human rights activist and executive director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Democratic Studies, in Cairo