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In Egypt: When Democracy is not an Option

By       Message Esam Al-Amin     Permalink
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opednews.com Headlined to H1 12/7/12

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The second type of opposition is represented by the traditional secular parties, groups, and individuals who found an opening in their incessant efforts to disrupt and unravel the nascent MB and FJP rule. They denounced the assumed presidential powers and described them as the beginning of a potential fascist dictatorship. For example, former Member of Parliament and renowned secular spokesman, Dr. Amr Hamzawy, tweeted that Morsi was worse than Hitler. Dr. Mohammad ElBaradei, the former IAEA director and chairman of the liberal Al-Dustoor party, called Morsi a new pharaoh and a dictator worse than Mubarak.

The third type of opposition was the fulool or remnants of the former regime that had been lurking in the background waiting for the right moment to regain their lost power. Since the waning days of the revolution, it was not until last spring that they regrouped around Shafik in his quest to become president but were ultimately defeated despite receiving the support of the military council, the so-called deep state, the oligarchs, and spending hundreds of millions of dollars of their illegally gained wealth on the failed campaign (despite the fact that the elections commission allowed for a maximum spending limit of $2 million.)

When Morsi issued his presidential decree the last two groups quickly formed a broad coalition under the name the National Salvation Front (NSF). Its main leaders included Moussa, ElBaradei, Sabahi, Nour, El-Sayyed Badawi, as well as individuals tied to Shafik and the former regime. In a rare display of unity, most secular groups including many youth revolutionary groups, followed suit and joined the NSF. But many critics contend that what united these diverse and acrimonious groups, was their hatred of the MB and the other religious groups. Their common strategy was simply to go to the streets and start an intense public campaign in order to dislodge Morsi and the MB from power, similar to the early days of the revolution against the Mubarak regime.

Therefore, in the week after Morsi issued the decree, tens of thousands of supporters of secular groups took to the streets calling for its cancellation and the dissolution of the CCA. Although they were largely peaceful demonstrations, two young people, ages 15 and 17, died with one person belonging to each camp (secular and Islamist). The response of the Islamist forces was to speed up the passage of the new constitution by holding a 19-hour session to pass the 236-article constitution on Thursday and Friday, November 29 and 30.

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The secular groups, who had occupied Tahrir Square since November 23, then escalated their demands by including the rejection of the new constitution and calling for the impeachment of Morsi for refusing to agree to their demands and for the passage of the constitution by his supporters.

As the battle in the streets was taking shape, the Islamist groups held their own massive demonstration on December 1 in Nahda Square in front of Cairo University to support the president and the new constitution. The number of people in this demonstration dwarfed those of the secular opposition in Tahrir Square. According to neutral experts, this number ranged from one to two million, some even claiming as much as six million demonstrators nationwide. At night, a massive screen in the square showed the president meeting with members of the CCA and officially receiving a copy of the draft constitution. The president then promptly announced that on December 15 the country would vote on the new constitution in a public referendum. While the demonstrators in Nahda Square roared and cheered in support of this decision, the protesters in Tahrir booed and condemned the same act, a contrast that was shown in a split screen on many TV news channels.

If the objective of the Islamist demonstrators was to show which side had more popular support in the streets, this goal was easily accomplished.  But if the demonstration was to present a moderate face to the public in order to soothe any concerns or fears of impending religious authoritarianism, this goal failed miserably. Many of the chants and speeches during the demonstration simply solidified the anxieties and apprehensions among the secular groups. Many neutral observers such as presidential advisors Ayman Al-Sayyad and Esmat Saif-al-Dawalah saw this as a display of ugly religious fascism. Four non-partisan presidential advisors, including these two, resigned shortly thereafter.

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After their enormous show of public support, tens of thousands of Islamists left Nahda Square and by early morning were holding another demonstration in front of the SCC. On that day (December 2) the high court was scheduled to hold its session on the constitutionality of Majlis Al-Shura and the CCA. Morsi's supporters feared that if the SCC dissolved both bodies, then a constitutional crisis would ensue. Fearing for their lives from the ugly chants in front of the court's building, the SCC judges angrily suspended their work indefinitely.

The next day the secular forces led by the NSF called for a counter demonstration in front of the presidential palace "Al-Ittihadiyyah" in order to besiege the president in the same manner the judges were besieged by the Islamist protesters. By Tuesday, December 4 thousands of angry demonstrators surrounded the presidential palace demanding the end of the MB rule and the downfall of Morsi. Meanwhile, many FJP and MB offices around the country were also ransacked and torched.

By Wednesday, December 5, Morsi's supporters arrived by the thousands in front of the presidential palace and by nightfall violence between the groups quickly broke out, resulting in six deaths and over 700 injuries. An FJP official reported that all the dead were MB supporters and that over 1,500 were injured nationwide. MB leader and prominent attorney Sobhi Saleh was badly beaten and accused his opponents of trying to assassinate him. Similarly, secular groups accused the MB of instigating mob violence as its supporters tried to clear the grounds of the secular groups in the area around the presidential palace as they took down their tents. What was incredible during these street scuffles was the absence of the security forces for fear of killing or injuring any demonstrators by the state security units.

In a subsequent address to the nation, President Morsi said that among the injured were 61 people who were shot with either real or rubber bullets by thugs infiltrating the demonstrators. He also claimed that many presidential cars were attacked and torched and that the police subsequently arrested 80 "thugs" from among the protesters who confessed to being paid to shoot the demonstrators and instigate violence. He hinted that the fulool were behind these thugs and vowed that those who were behind the instigation of violence would be apprehended and brought to justice.

The President speaks

Throughout the confrontation, the TV airwaves were flooded with initiatives aimed at defusing the impending explosion. For the first time since the revolution, there is fear of a real danger of civil strife, if not an all-out civil war. The opposition leadership of the NSF huddled at the Al-Wafd Party on the morning of December 6. But by mid-afternoon, their spokesman escalated the situation and accused the MB of instigating violence the previous day. He also vowed not only to insist on their demands to annul the presidential decree and cancel the constitutional referendum, but also to bring down Morsi's presidency. He then rejected all calls for participation in a national dialogue with the president or his political supporters. The spokesman finally called for massive protests on Friday, December 7 in all squares across Egypt to bring down Morsi's government.

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Meanwhile, Dr. Abol Fotouh held a press conference rejecting some aspects of the presidential decree, namely articles 2 and 6, while affirming the legitimacy of Morsi's presidency. He called on the opposition to stop settling scores with the MB, reject the infiltration of the fulool among them, and be civilized and non-violent in their opposition. He also announced that his party would reject the constitution because of the concessions given to the military in the draft as well as the lack of real commitment in the constitution to social justice for Egypt's poor.

Meanwhile, as President Morsi addressed the nation on Thursday evening, December 6, over several thousand thugs of the fulool,  in what appeared to be coordinated efforts,  attacked and torched several MB buildings across Egypt including their headquarters in Cairo, which further inflamed the MB's members and supporters.

Morsi's speech was his first address to the nation covering the most contentious troubles facing his country. He began his speech by rejecting violence and asking all parties to adhere to a civilized way in settling their differences while affirming the right of dissent and peaceful protest. He gave some details about the casualties during the violent confrontations the previous day and revealed that a conspiracy by the fulool  has been uncovered and that the general prosecutor would soon expose the extent of the plot to undermine the institutions of the state and spread internal strife.

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

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