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Is June 30 Egypt’s zero hour?
June 28, 2013, 10:45 pm

Pro-Morsi supporters demonstrate in the Nasr City area of Cairo June 28, 2013 [Xinhua]

Pro-Morsi supporters demonstrate in the Nasr City area of Cairo June 28, 2013 [Xinhua]

Egyptian politicians, lawyers, opposition party members, grassroots activists and millions of citizens are hoping that anti-government protests planned for June 30 will ignite another revolution.

Meanwhile, dissatisfaction with the outcome of the January 25 Uprising (which ousted President Hosni Mubarak) has spurred a new grassroots movement called Tamarod, or rebellion in Arabic.

Tamarod says its goal is to oust President Mohamed Morsi, elected exactly a year ago, and hold new elections. A few months ago, the movement launched a petition appeal to collect at least 15 million signatures calling for Morsi to step down by June 30.

But Morsi appears to be holding firm. On June 26, he admitted making mistakes during his first year in office but also blamed “enemies” for dividing the country. In a televised address, he dismissed criticism of his tenure and blamed the increased political polarity for damaging the democratic course the nation has taken since ousting Mubarak in February 2011.

Morsi’s supporters have been demonstrating in public squares saying the president has been unfairly targeted. But his speech did not dissuade the opposition; thousands of people have already started to demonstrate calling for his ouster.

The BRICS Post spoke with a number of Egyptians about the importance of the June 30 demonstrations.

Dalia Hamed – Managing director of ComStratEg, a communications strategy consultancy group

No one can claim that they know what is going to happen on June 30. However, the one thing that is for sure is that the atmosphere is Übercharged and that the political arena is totally polarized like never – ever – before in Egyptian history.

Everyone is on their toes – Islamists, Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood), the opposition, the Copts and even the layperson in the street. The anxiety, tension and anticipation is so thick, you could cut it – literally – with a knife.

The one thing that is clear is that Egyptians are ready to hit the streets in unprecedented numbers; they are angry, frustrated, disappointed and feel betrayed. Since January 2011, Egyptians were taken on a joy ride of ousting a tyrant only to face the harsh reality that Mubarak’s dictatorship has been replaced by a theocratic regime that not only violates each and every aspect of their very modest yet very peppy lifestyles, but is also destroying the very essence for their livelihoods.

The Ikhwan’s run of the country has manifested into a series of failures – from the failure to bring to justice those responsible for the killing of the revolution’s martyrs to acquitting Mubarak and many of the old regime figures of a slew of charges including murder and corruption.

Their tenure has also led to blatant violations of existing statutes and laws, a tailor-made constitution they rushed through a referendum, and an increase in insecurity which ultimately led to the kidnappings and assassinations of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula.

The latest blow is news of Ethiopia finalizing plans to build the Renaissance Dam which could limit the flow of Nile water to Egypt.

The Islamists in general, and Ikhwanis in particular, have succeeded in aggravating almost every sector of Egyptian society: the media, civic society, the Judiciary, and of course the Liberals. Nowadays, the single topic of argument amongst Egyptians is whether the Ikhwan’s mistakes are intentional or a result of mere stupidity?

Either way, Egyptians are left with no choice but to hit the streets; although they know they may not be the only players in the arena, they are once again determined to take matters into their own hands. The Tamarod or rebel movement has succeeded in collecting millions of signatures of Egyptians requesting a vote of no confidence for Morsi.

It is now aligning with almost every opposition group, affiliation or party in the country. If the January 25, 2011 Revolution was about freedom and social justice, then the June 30 Revolution will be about something much more important – Egypt’s survival.

Alaa Bayoumi – Researcher with a Master’s degree in conflict resolution and policy studies; author of two Arabic-language books on US foreign policy in the Middle East.

Thirty months after the toppling of Mubarak and one year after first free presidential elections in Egypt’s history, the country’s problems seem very much visible and formidable.

A poor country of 82 million people with a GDP of $229.5 billion, which is less than that of Israel’s ($242.9 billion) population of 8 million people, Egypt is struggling economically on many fronts.

A man sifts through garbage near a market in Cairo as more Egyptians fall on hard times [Getty Images]

A man sifts through garbage near a market in Cairo as more Egyptians fall on hard times [Getty Images]

About 25 per cent of Egyptians are illiterate and live under the poverty line. Official numbers put unemployment at 13 per cent, with 3.5 million people unable to find work. About 50 per cent of those employed work in the unofficial economic sector with no contracts and hardly any benefits or rights.

Public salaries, education, and health services are at critically low levels. Economic development over the last three to four decades favoured the rich, thereby leaving the country in need of an economic transformation to get back on track. Yet, facing such challenges the newly elected government and its opponents seem too busy fighting over power than searching for real solutions to people’s problems.

More blame lies on those in power. The Muslim Brotherhood, which now controls the executive and legislative branches of government through its political arm, the ruling Freedom and Justice Party (FJParty), wasted precious time in narrow-minded politics.

It failed to keep the political coalition that brought Morsi to power, and failed to build any serious public dialogue or consensus mechanism other than inviting some party leaders to dialogue with the president.

The last dialogue was a diplomatic embarrassment for the country; invited political leaders lashed out at Ethiopia, which is building a dam on the Nile, and complained after the meeting that they did not know that their comments were televised. A presidential aide to apologise.

More importantly, Morsi failed to develop clear policies that would make people feel a departure from the old days or a serious change in the making. At this moment, it is not clear what Morsi achieved during his first year in power to reform police, fix the economy, transform foreign policy, or deal with other daunting problems.

The opposition is also to blame. It is known to be fragmented, confrontational, and ruled by the same old elites.

Youth leaders who were at the forefront of the revolution often complain that they are not represented in the main secular opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front (NSF), which is also often criticized for failing to reach out to the grassroots and especially to the poor and disadvantaged population away beyond the capital and major urban centres.

The opposition is also criticized for failing to offer an alternative policy platform to fix Egypt’s problems.

This is why June 30 is anticipated and feared. Hope felt after the revolution is now replaced with despair and disappointment with the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership style. People feel little change and the majority fear the future especially on the economic front.

When the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliates face their opponents on June 30, it will only serve to prove once again the opportunity and time wasted, how grave is the threat of instability, and the need for leadership to deal with problems that have no quick fix.

Dalia Rabie – Journalist covering politics and human interest issues

A few days ago, I saw the faces of former Presidents Mubarak, Anwar Sadat and Gamal Abdel Nasser plastered across posters sold on the streets of Heliopolis. The resurfacing of an ousted president likely indicates growing frustration with Egypt’s first civilian president, and a longing for the rule of the military officers that preceded him.

This scene was especially alarming in light of the looming June 30 protests, planned against Morsi’s rule.

Tamarod is working on collecting signatures to lobby for early presidential elections and mobilizing for mass protests on June 30. However it has failed to provide a plan to maintain pressure or to identify long-term goals.

The campaign may be unwittingly playing in favour of the former regime.

Mubarak supporters have jumped at the chance to sign a petition pledging to uphold and work toward achieving the goals of a revolution they were against to begin with – shedding light on a clear conflict of interest that needs to be addressed should early elections be held.

Before we dub this Egypt’s second revolution, and if the opposition is intent on achieving January 2011’s original goals, there also needs to be a clear strategy to keep the momentum of the protests slated for June 30, and avoid pitfalls of previous demonstrations.

If the previous year under Morsi’s rule is anything to go by, demonstrations like these have either been widely ignored by the president – or worse, violently attacked by his supporters.

Not only do opposition groups need to adopt a systematic approach to bringing down the Brotherhood rule, they also need to garner support and offer viable alternatives for leadership.

Otherwise, it is likely that the short-sighted goal of ending the rule of the Brotherhood may in its haste either backfire or fizzle.

Joseph Fahim – Film critic

Divisions, high emotions and uncertainty run high today but the outcome of what is bound to end up being the biggest mass protest since January 28, 2011 is anyone’s guess.

The anti-establishment movement Tamarod emerged a few months ago as a reaction to both the repressive, autocratic policies of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, and the impotence of the opposition, represented in the unpopular ‘Salvation Front’ coalition.

Succeeding in drawing volunteers from different socio-economic and ideological backgrounds, Tamarod expanded its reach in no time, galvanizing regular citizens to collect 15 million signatures – equivalent to the 15 million voters who installed Morsi into power a year ago – that demand the president step down.

In Egypt, you can use religion for political gains as long as it doesn’t affect people’s livelihood. Once it does, the same people who voted the once outlawed Islamic group into power will immediately turn against them, and that’s exactly what happened.

The ground couldn’t have been more fertile for Tamarod: the worst economic crisis since the Depression, an over-abuse of power on equal footing with the Mubarak regime, an infrastructure collapse reflected most palpably in power cuts, shortage of fuel and increase in food prices, questionable foreign policies, the Ethiopian dam debacle and curb of civil freedoms. The January 2011 Revolution is still ongoing, but so far, its outcomes have been pitiful.

For politicians and activists, there has certainly been considerable gains from January 2011, but for the average citizen who continues to suffer under another totalitarian rule, the uprising has been nothing but one colossal waste.

For many people in Egypt, June 30 heralds a second revolution; a golden opportunity to get rid of Morsi, the ‘accidental president’ as many call him.

No other president in the history of this country, not even Mubarak in his waning days, has attracted such abomination, contempt and downright hatred. In every conversation you have with anyone in Cairo – from cab drivers and fruit merchants to businessmen and low-ranking government employees – all paths lead to Morsi’s incompetence.

People across the nation will hit the streets in droves secretly hoping that Morsi would instantly oblige to their demands and, to put it bluntly, bugger off. But that’s not going to happen because, a) Morsi is no different than Mubarak and he’ll do whatever it takes to stay in power; b) the power-starved (and highly organised) Muslim Brotherhood are still backed by millions of supporters adamant on protecting their interests; and c) the current government will likely use extreme measures to quell the protests, even more radical than those used by Mubarak.

The military – the most trusted institution in the country according to the latest polls – will stay neutral and will unlikely enter in a clash with the Morsi-aligned police forces in spite of their antagonism towards the president and his clan. The protests might continue for a few days, accompanied by strikes and civil disobedience, but they will rapidly run of steam. The January 2011 fatigue hasn’t worn off; a real second revolution in two years seems quite unrealistic at the moment.

Even if Morsi willingly steps down, we’ll be confronted with the same question we failed to answer for the past couple of years – what do we next? At this stage, no one has a clue.

Khaled Bahaaeldin – Professor of pediatric surgery at the Faculty of Medicine in Cairo University

Have Morsi's policies alienated the security forces? [Getty Images]

Have Morsi’s policies alienated the security forces? [Getty Images]

Imagine a crazed scriptwriter dishing out the recipe for a perfect disaster satire. First the besieged ruler gets into quicksands littered with mines.

How does he get there in a little over a year? By repeatedly shooting himself in the legs. He alienates the primary tool of governance – the police.

Secondly, he starts drying up the revenues of the exchequer by expeditiously throwing spanner after spanner into the wheels of the economy’s machine.

Foreign currency inflows through tourism … gone! Direct foreign investments … you’ve got another thing coming.

Then off to the popularity contest – he did have a tad over 50 per cent of the presidential vote last year.

Admirably, he weeded and plucked his popularity by hungrily grabbing for power on behalf of “Kin and clan”.

Soon thereafter, he accused the judiciary of being counter-revolutionaries, the media as agents provocateurs, and the national intelligence services as running an army of paid thugs.

He then moved on to drafting a constitution at best described as amateurish. However, all the previous pale in comparison to the fuel and power shortages, and taxation packages making life for citizens … challenging, to say the least.

Add some dramatic twists of asinine displays of statesmanship and presidential gaffes in state visits and terribly managing a water rights dispute with Ethiopia and you’re all set to go.

Now for the adversaries, the leadership of the opposition is diversified. Some are aloof and nested in ivory towers, while others are discredited because of previous political allegiances.

Finally, throw in a faceless, leaderless last-ditch movement managing to collect several millions of endorsers of “insurrection” petition papers. They set the showdown on  June 30.

How is this destined to play out? It’s like one of those open-ended fantasy games, where either the insurrection runs out of steam after the initial festivities of emotional outburst or the incumbent walking away even stronger.

Alternatively, any bloodshed instigated by jihadist cravings of divine rewards will ultimately end in Brinton Crane’s conclusion of Anatomy of a Revolution – by falling back into the hands of an army-backed strongman.

Abdel-Rahman Hussein – Investigative journalist

June 30, 2013 commemorates Morsi’s first year in office.

Tamarod’s success in collecting the signatures of more than 15 million people calling for Morsi to step down stems from a deep sense of dissatisfaction with his performance since he assumed office.

The reasons are numerous and are worth listing in some detail. Morsi’s first few months in office were relatively quiet, and there were no calls for him to step down until November 2012.

It was then that he issued a contentious constitutional declaration that granted him immunity from judicial oversight and ring-fenced an Islamist dominated constituent assembly dogged with controversy.

The thin electoral mandate that had seen him become president had been usurped by the man himself. The fallout was significant and much blood was shed. It also cemented the idea that Morsi was merely continuing the same policies of his ousted predecessor Hosni Mubarak. The police brutality that had initially sparked the January 2011 uprising continued unabated.

There are also economic factors that are feeding the dissatisfaction. A faltering economy now coupled with crippling fuel shortages and incessant power cuts have contributed to the anger against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The inability to turn the economy around has probably been the biggest reason behind the success of the Tamarod campaign.

There are also fears that the sectarian rhetoric propagated by Morsi supporters could involve Egypt into the expanding Sunni-Shia divide in the region, with the murder of four Shia Egyptians coming after a speech by Morsi where his supporters took the stage with heightened anti-Shia rhetoric. That is in addition to the increase in sectarian attacks against Egyptian Christians, an issue that also existed during the Mubarak era.

Speculation is rife about the possible outcomes of the June 30 protests, and most speculation seems to center on what role – if any – the Egyptian military will play if the protests push on and forces its hand. Aside from the revolutionary bloc, there is popular support for the military to step in and remove Morsi, and set the scene for a fresh round of elections.

Hany Farouk Ghoraba – Egyptian political writer and freelance journalist; author of Egypt’s Arab Spring: The Long and Winding Road to Democracy

Some believe that the Egyptian military will intervene to secure the country from violence [Xinhua]

Some believe that the Egyptian military will intervene to secure the country from violence [Xinhua]

Egypt is currently in its worst economic situation in decades after less than one year of Morsi’s presidency.

Unemployment, hunger, lack of security, and crime have surged dramatically during his reign. There are also shortages of electrical power, drinking water, fuel and gasoline. Shortages in many types of essential medicines and drugs are being reported all over the country.

Human Rights abuses involving elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists against activists and even the common citizenry, have become prevalent. The once peaceful Sinai Peninsula is slowly become the next Waziristan (Pakistan) as the number of attacks on security forces there results in the killing of Egyptian army and police soldiers.

Accordingly, the success of the June 30 and Tamarod (rebellion) protests demanding Morsi step down and hold new elections will depend on the numbers showing up to demonstrate and insisting on their demands.

Should the protests show initial success, it is very likely that the Egyptian military will return to be a player at least temporarily. The military has been stepping up preparations and military maneuvers in the past two months in anticipation of how the June 30 protests will play out.

They military is ready to quell any form of violence that may arise between Muslim Brotherhood members (and their Islamists allies, like the terrorist group Gamaa Islamiya) and protesters. These factions have already threatened that they will quell any populist uprising by any means, including repeated violence. Hence the security apparatus and Army are ready to deal with such elements; a new defensive operation called “Iron Wall” has been launched to protect the capital Cairo from any terrorist elements coming from Sinai or regions.

If Morsi and the Brotherhood abide by the demands of the nation they are likely to stay and fight for another day. If they decide to utilize draconian measures it will be their end politically and socially in Egypt; their allies will also lose political capital.

Some anti-government groups have called for the Head of the Constitutional Government to be an interim president. This might not be a very appropriate choice in the current situation as the army has to be involved to tighten the nuts and bolts of a divided nation at least for two years.

There is no need to rush for new elections before stabilizing the economy and creating some social stability, among other priorities.

Nervana Mahmoud – Blogger and commentator on Middle East affairs

The question here is how can Tamarod succeed?

June 30 is a huge opportunity that the anti-Morsi camp cannot afford to squander. The formula for success should include certain ingredients that can maximize the chances of winning against Egypt’s failing leadership.

First: Have faith

The millions of signatures gathered by Tamarod should not just be a confidence boost, it also should reinforce the belief that the movement to depose Morsi is heading in the right direction. Faith is essential element in any battle.

Second: Tame expectations

Any high expectations of immediate success can lead to a downward spiral of disappointment. This is a battle that will not be won by a decisive knockout. The anti-Morsi camp should aim at creating new realities. It should not be just demonstrations but a start of long campaign of civil disobedience.

Third: Don’t rely on third parties

Any reliance on a possible military coup is a wild gamble, History teaches us that Islamists always thrive on victim-hood; therefore, Egyptians must prevent their Islamists from using this easy winning tool that has always played wonders over the last 60 years.

Fourth: Unite 

‘Unity’ is a magical word that is rather elusive in meaning, but for now, it is a must. If Egypt’s feckless opposition cannot contribute positively, it must at least not cause harm. They must understand their own limitations and stop being a hindrance to those amazing youths who organized the Tamarod rebel campaign.

Fifth: Help to prevent chaos

As Islamists keep forecasting civil war and chaos, Tamarod should counter this ugly propaganda with a solid plan. Various teams should be allocated tasks like helping the injured, facilitating traffic, preventing a security vacuum. It is crucial for the wider Egyptian public to see Tamarod as a multi-tasking movement that aims to save and not to burn the country.

In many ways, Tamarod resembles the 1919 Revolution in Egypt. True, it is a leaderless movement but it can set in motion a different dynamic that can create a new leadership. Egypt can and will prevail against the Brotherhood’s poor leadership.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect the publisher’s editorial policy.