He only came into power two months ago but the new Egyptian president is feeling the full force of the country’s new democracy.
The leftists are unhappy with his social policies and the ordinary people of this 80 million-strong country are looking for economic change. If the two can unite, Morsi may find his stint as leader seriously curtailed.
This week the head of the Al-Nadim Center of Human Rights wrote an open letter, published in Rebel Socialists, an online site, to Dr. Essam el-Erian, a prominent Muslim Brotherhood politician.
In it, the Brotherhood are accused of trying to demonize the liberals:
“…it has nothing to do with culture or Islamic law or morality. You want to isolate the Left and tarnish its image, because it's the only party concerned about the social revolution and social protests that we see in the country.”
The protests have been ongoing but they are on the rise. Friday’s protests against the president drew thousands in the capital, converging on the presidential palace. They were not as big as those against ousted president Mubarak or even against the military rulers of SCAF (The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) but they are gaining ground.
The problem Morsi faces is that a huge number of Egyptians never wanted to vote for him in the first place.
Bassem Mustafa Rassad, 24, was one of the key players in the Tahrir protests, organizing convoys from the suburbs to keep the demonstrations going. He represents a view that many liberals share:
“In the first round I voted for Sabahi but I didn’t vote in the second round,” he says.
Turnout was at a record low for the second round of elections when the only options were Ahmed Shafiq - representing the old regime - or Mohammed Morsi. Many Egyptians either didn’t vote or wrote a name on their polling cards that was neither Shafiq nor Morsi in order to officially ‘void’ their vote.
Bassem, a solar energy engineer, thinks the current spate of protests against Morsi bears similarities with those he participated in before:
“It hasn’t moved into big-scale protests yet. But this is exactly what happened in 2005 and it finally all translated into 2011.”
Unemployment and poverty were key catalysts for the Arab Spring movement that ousted Morsi’s predecessor so the Egyptian economy should be high priority on the new president’s agenda. However Egyptians complain of déjà vu, saying Morsi’s budget looks a lot like Mubarak’s.
Dr. Magda Adly, in her open letter, directly accuses the new government of turning a blind eye to economic reform.
“Has the glare of power make you blind to the vision of poverty and slums, disease and destitution?” she asks.
Certainly the capital still faces hours of power cuts and a dearth of employment opportunities. Now the president has turned to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) for assistance, asking for a billion dollar loan.
But IMF loans come with strict economic regulations and these are even further away from the socialist welfare structures that the Left demands.
Qusay Salama, 39, is an IT Manager in the capital. He was part of the core set of demonstrators in Tahrir who stayed for the long haul:
“For me Tahrir was a protest against a corrupt regime but we’re still not happy about the outcome. To be honest it’s just the same as before.”
By Helen Brooks
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