Opposition eyes revolt on Morsi's first anniversary
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Millions of Egyptians have signed up to the Tamarod – or rebellion – campaign, which is calling for an early presidential election to mark President Mohammed Morsi’s first anniversary in office on June 30.
reporting from Cairo
A group of around 30 demonstrators line a street in the Kobri el Kobba district of Cairo, holding up posters that say "Tamarod" - or rebellion in Arabic. In the thick of Cairo’s traffic, passing motorists honk to show their support for the cause.
Walaa, a young demonstrator dressed in a flowing all-black cloak and veil noted that a year ago she voted for Mohamed Morsi in the first presidential election after the fall of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak.
"Since then, nothing has changed - nothing,” says the single, unemployed young woman. “The situation is even worse, both internally and in our external relations. The Muslim Brotherhood listens to the people when they need their votes and then they forget about us. They have divided Egyptians."
Disappointed by the government, Walaa now supports the Tamarod campaign.
Launched in early May by a group of young people – including a few members of Kefaya, one of Egypt’s oldest opposition movements – Tamarod is a signature campaign calling for an early presidential election since, the organisers claim, Morsi has lost the trust of the Egyptian people.
Over the past few weeks, the movement has spread quickly across the country.
The petition, which is available on the Internet, has been printed and photocopied by volunteers, who collect signatures at traffic intersections, markets and metro stations in Cairo and other towns and cities. Several opposition parties have also opened their premises to the campaign and have mobilised their members. Tamarod organising committees have been formed in towns and cities such as Ismailia, in eastern Egypt, and Kafr Zayat, a city 90 kilometers north of Cairo.
On the movement’s Facebook page, which at last count had nearly 400,000 fans, activists post pictures of signatories from Aswan, in southern Egypt, to Sharm El Sheikh, in the Sinai.
The organizers say they have already collected nearly 15 million signatures. That’s 2 million more than the 13 million voters who handed Morsi a slim 52% victory in the June 2012 run-off vote against Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak.
‘There is no work, no security, no state’
In the Kobri el Kobba district of Cairo, Fahed Hosni, 22, fills out the Tamarod form, supplying his name, national identity card number and governorate. “Mohamed Morsi is not the right person to lead the country,” he explains. “He has not delivered on any of the demands of the revolution.”
Signing the petition on the hood of a car, Haifat Anwar Habib agrees. “Anyone could do better than Morsi,” he notes. “The Muslim Brotherhood is not interested in doing what is best for Egypt, but to establish their Islamist project.”
Like many Egyptians, Habib finds daily life getting harder each day. Egyptian authorities are still awaiting a $4.8 million IMF loan, which was agreed in principle two years ago.
Negotiations for the loan have run into repeated snags, with the IMF calling for more robust reforms. With economic growth down from a pre-2011 average of 7% to around 2% after the uprising, plummeting foreign reserves, rising unemployment and inflation, Egypt’s economy has been battered and is only being kept afloat by loans from Qatar and other regional states.
“The working conditions in the private sector are catastrophic,” says Habib. “But I cannot find a job in the public sector. I have two children. I have only four guineas [about 50 cents] in my pocket. There is no work, no security, no state.”
According to Sherif el-Hagaty, Tamarod coordinator in the district and member of the Social Democratic Party, the poorest people sign the petition primarily for economic reasons.
“The more affluent sign it for political reasons," el-Hagaty said. "The current regime has been repeating the same mistakes as the previous one concerning civil rights, corruption and constitutionally-guaranteed liberties.”
‘I may be attacked or killed - like other members of Tamarod’
On June 30, the first anniversary of Morsi’s presidential investiture, Tamarod organizers hope to transform the millions of signatories into a huge rally against the Morsi regime.
But what happens the day after June 30? Ahmed Adel, a member of the Tamarod campaign central committee, has a plan: establishing a consensus government for a transitional period of six months, amending the constitution and holding early elections.
It’s an ideal scenario that Adel acknowledges is not likely to happen.
"The Muslim Brotherhood will not allow such a process to take place peacefully,” he says. “They will certainly use violence on June 30 and the day after. I may be attacked or killed – like other members of Tamarod.”
El-Hagaty, the Korbi el-Kobba district coordinator for Tamarod, also believes clashes between pro and anti-Morsi demonstrators are inevitable. “If that happens, maybe the High Constitutional Court or the army will intervene to organize elections,” he says.
‘Talk about an early election is absurd’
The Morsi administration, for its part, considers Tamarod an illegitimate movement.
On June 21, tens of thousands of Morsi supporters gathered in a Cairo suburb to show their support for the president.
“That’s not how democracy works,” says Tarek Morsi, spokesman for the ruling Freedom and Justice Party, in an interview with FRANCE 24. “If you are able to gather 15 million people to participate in the electoral process and win the elections, the other side can’t just bring 16 million signatories the next day and reverse the system.”
In an interview with the government daily, Al-Ahram, Morsi dismissed the Tamarod campaign. “We are a state with a constitution and laws,” said Morsi. “We held a free and fair election, and talk of an early presidential election is absurd and illegitimate.”
To which Tamarod member Shady Malik retorts, “If this campaign has no value, why do they bother to attack us?” In recent weeks, there have been growing reports of Tamarod volunteers being attacked in Cairo and other parts of the country.
For Yasser El-Shimy, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, this campaign, although peaceful, is indicative of the climate of political tension in Egypt.
“It shows in particular the increasing isolation of the administration,” he notes. “And if violence breaks out on June 30, all scenarios are possible. Chaos, a crackdown... all parties in this debate should understand that there is no alternative to reconciliation.”