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State’s failed policies fuel Egypt’s public anger
January 28, 2013, 4:01 pm

Protesters clash with police near Cairo's Tahrir Square. [Xinhua]

Protesters clash with police near Cairo’s Tahrir Square. [Xinhua]

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has declared a state of emergency in three key cities following five days of deadly clashes that have left dozens dead, but experts say it is his mismanagement that has fuelled much of the public anger.

On Sunday, the Ministry of Health said 40 people had been killed and more than 1,100 injured in clashes in Port Said, Ismailia, Alexandria, Cairo, and Suez.

The ministry said that the majority of deaths were recorded in Port Said, where tens of thousands of protesters seized the streets after a court decision to execute 21 of 73 men accused of killing fans at a football game nearly a year ago.

On February 1, 2012, 74 people were killed in Port Said stadium after clashes broke out between rival fans of clubs al-Masry and al-Ahly.

The Ultras, a hard-core Ahly fan group which counts more than 400,000 people as its members, has hinted at repercussions if courts did not hand down stiff sentences to the alleged perpetrators of the incident.

But the 21 death row inmates, who are Port Said residents, are scapegoats, their families say.

Morsi sent in the military and ordered a night-time curfew in a bid to quell the violence, but these attempts have so far failed.

But a number of analysts contacted by The BRICS Post say the crux of the violence and public anger in Egypt has more to do with the way the presidency and Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government has run the country since democratic elections in May 2012.

“Many of the foreign media are reporting what is happening in Egypt as a mere reaction to the Port Said sentencing but in fact it is way more than that. It is uproar against the Muslim Brotherhood,” says Dalia Hamed, the managing director of ComStratEg, a media consultancy firm.

Hamed says that stability – and by default, the economy – is deteriorating rapidly.

“The scene in Egypt is witnessing – for the first time – the emergence of militias such as the Black Bloc amongst others,” she says.

“On the other hand, the Ministry of Interior is cracking down very violently on protesters, which is also unprecedented. For instance, Tahrir square and the surrounding areas has been s0 heavily tear-gassed that many – including myself – had to rush home because we couldn’t breathe or see.

The series of dissent and violence began shortly before millions of Egyptians commemorated the second anniversary of the  25 January uprising which unseated former President Hosni Mubarak, and can be essentially traced back to Morsi’s November constitutional decree in which he awarded himself far-reaching executive power and said his policies were beyond reproach.

By mid-November, with the socio-economic situation in Egypt appearing stagnant, anti-Muslim Brotherhood sentiment was being openly voiced on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, Ismailia, Mahalla and other cities and towns. The turn-around in Brotherhood popularity was astonishing, as some media pundits have observed.

The Muslim Brotherhood organization, once vaunted as leading the resistance against the former regime, was itself not spared of condemnation.

Morsi’s 100-day agenda to resolve a bullet point list of every day Egyptian problems failed to yield any concrete results either.

“There is no question that opposition to Morsi has become more vocal since the November 22 constitutional declaration and the rushed referendum on the constitution, but that doesn’t mean he’s losing his grasp on power,” says Rania Al Malky, the publisher of the Egypt Monocle news website and former editor of the Daily News Egypt.

While she says that the violence in Port Said, Suez and Ismailia was due to criminal behaviour, Al Malky believes that the political impasse is not the real reason for public anger.

“People are fed up with the high prices and are disappointed in the overall inefficacy of the ruling administration, and with a little help from the provocateurs in the media and the so-called political opposition, many youth have become radicalised,” she told The BRICS Post.

But others see in the continuing street protests a new form of the uprising which began with the unseating of Mubarak.

“This is the second wave of revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood. The first wave was a couple of months ago following the constitution referendum drama,” says Rasha El-Ibiary, an adjunct assistant professor in journalism at the American University in Cairo.

“There have been so many failed policies in the past period and the major problem for the man of the street is not fulfilling the goals of the revolution and pressuring the poor people to the max, by raising the prices of main commodities,” El-Ibiary says.

Egypt’s inflation rate increased to 4.7 per cent in December, with official figures indicating unemployment at 12.5 per cent as the year capped off with the beginning of the currency’s slide. By the end of January, the currency had devalued by nearly 9 per cent.

In the meantime, Morsi has called for a national dialogue with his rivals to solve the country’s most pressing issues. It is unclear whether Egypt’s leading opposition figures will participate.

The BRICS Post