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Egypt's Fateful Day

By       Message Esam Al-Amin     Permalink
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On the other hand, the fractious opposition seemed not only divided but also devoid of real alternatives. What united them was their utter hatred and enmity towards the Islamists in general and the MB in particular. Some leaders such as ElBaradei and Mousa called on foreign powers, including the US, to take sides in the internal struggle and condemn the Morsi government. Others such as Sabbahi and Shafiq openly called on the military to overthrow the elected president and take over. Consequently, the public was further alienated and disgusted as its economic livelihood was squeezed and the country's infrastructure was crumbling. Meanwhile, the head of the military appointed by Morsi last August, Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, publicly stated that the military would no longer be engaged in politics and dismissed all calls to topple Morsi. After more than twenty-five failed attempts in less than six months to mobilize the public against the MB, the opposition proved to be weak, divided, and in disarray.

Tamarrud vs. Tajarrud

Meanwhile, a new group called Tamarrud or Rebellion led by several revolutionary youth groups gained momentum when they declared at the end of April a new movement to depose Morsi and challenge his legitimacy. On April 28, Tamarrud announced that they would collect 15 million signatures from registered voters demanding early presidential elections on June 30, the first anniversary of Morsi's inauguration. Within weeks, most secular and youth groups as well as the fulool embraced this central message. At least 14 private satellite channels started a vast propaganda campaign and mobilization efforts promoting the day as a second revolution to cleanse the country from the MB rule. By mid-June Tamarrud's co-founder and spokesman Mahmoud Badr announced that the movement has collected more than 15 million signatures which represented a million more people than those who voted for Morsi in the presidential elections.

Not to be outmaneuvered, the Islamist groups decried the secular opposition and denounced their undemocratic tactics and unconstitutional calls to depose Morsi before the end of his term in 2016. Asem Abdelmagid, a leading figure in the Islamic Group, an ally of the MB, initiated his own movement Tajarrud or Impartiality in order to counter Tamarrud. By the third week of June he announced that by the end of that month he would have collected over 20 million signatures in support of Morsi. Critics of both movements dismissed these numbers as unrealistic, observing that no one could actually verify their figures, especially when MB critic and poet Ahmad Fuad Negm said publicly that he personally signed Tamarrud's petition 16 times.

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Between Tamarrud and Tajarrud the Egyptian society has never been more polarized. On one side, most of the secular forces, youth groups, Christians, and the fulool are mobilizing for the showdown or a second revolution to depose Morsi and dislodge the MB. On the other side, most Islamist groups are vowing to defend Morsi's legitimacy and rule by all means. On June 21, in an impressive show of force, the Islamists groups mobilized more than a million of their supporters in a Cairo suburb. This massive demonstration was dubbed "No to violence, Yes to legitimacy." Although their rhetoric called for peaceful demonstrations and endorsed freedom of expression, their leaders tacitly threatened to declare a wave of Islamic revolution if the June 30 demonstration was successful in deposing Morsi.

Meanwhile, Tamarrud's leaders announced that their plan on that day included protests by millions of people in the streets occupying major intersections, and surrounding the presidential palace demanding early presidential elections. Should Morsi refuse to resign, the group announced that it will escalate its confrontation by possibly storming the presidential palace and installing the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court as an interim president, annulling the new constitution, and forming a new government led by a independent politician or a technocrat.

Hence, there are three possible scenarios that might take place on this fateful day. First, the scenario envisioned by the MB according to which the call for mass mobilization would result only in modest numbers across the country and would fail to attract millions or sustain itself for days or weeks. Such an outcome, they hope, would vindicate their view and considerably weaken the opposition. A second scenario advocated by the youth groups and non-violent opposition is that millions of Egyptians would actually take to the streets in a massive show of support for Morsi's resignation and the end of the MB rule. They hope that such protests across the country not only would be huge and sustained but concurrently joined by labor strikes and civil disobedience until Morsi gives in. 

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A third scenario is the one tacitly promoted by the fulool groups. In this scenario, former regime loyalists led by former politicians and security officials, as well as corrupt businessmen, who readily financed thousands of baltagies or thugs, will join the demonstrations in order to spread chaos and anarchy. According to this frightful scenario, the role of the baltagies will be to kill hundreds if not thousands of demonstrators, torch MB and FJP buildings, and assassinate their leaders in order to force the military to take over the country and launch a new transitional period without the domination of the Islamist groups. Should such a scenario materialize, the Islamist groups vowed to send millions of their supporters to defend Morsi and the legitimacy of his presidency.

Furthermore, the role of the foreign powers should not be minimized, as there are several regional states, especially the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Israel, which are disturbed by the Arab Spring phenomenon and would like to curtail its influence if not totally defeat it. There are many credible reports that some of the Gulf countries have been very active in financing many of the anti-MB media outlets and the fulool groups. The U.S., on the other hand, has been working both sides of the equation in order to maintain influence and relevance. While Secretary of State John Kerry promised the military its $1.3 Billion aid package, the administration has been very slow in pushing the IMF loan critical to Morsi's government. Meanwhile, American Ambassador Anne Patterson has been actively engaging government officials and opposition leaders alike. Ironically, each side accuses the other of serving the U.S.'s interest at the expense of the national interest.

Regardless of which scenario unfolds, Egypt will be facing difficult times. But for wisdom and rationality to carry the day, Egyptians of all stripes must come to their senses and realize that no group can ignore or marginalize the others. The MB-dominated government must realize that it must be inclusive and transparent, while the opposition must respect the democratic rules of the political game. If the opposition succeeds in dislodging Morsi, no future president would be able to finish his term in office because the other side would also use the same disrupting tactics. If the opposition groups have millions behind them as they claim, they should head for parliamentary elections as soon as possible. If they win a majority of the seats, they not only could form the next government, but they could also change the constitution, and act as a check to the powers of the president in a democratic and civilized fashion that would earn the world's respect. But if they opt for the use of violence or undemocratic tactics in order to have their way, then this remarkable revolution would have been in vain -- a feat that would delight Mubarak loyalists and Egypt's enemies.

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Esam Al-Amin is a regular contributor for a number of websites.

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