Rejecting The Head Of State

One year after Mohamed Morsi’s inauguration as president, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians are flooding Tahrir Square calling for his resignation. The protests are even more massive than the 18-day revolution that toppled Mubarak back in February 2011:

The scene on Sunday was a far cry from a year ago today, when supporters packed the square to celebrate Morsi’s inauguration. Now many are back to blame him for a stagnant economy, worsening security and an ongoing lack of basic services. Demonstrators waved red cards and chanted “irhal” – “leave”, and promised to camp in the square until Morsi resigns. Thousands more have joined marches headed for the presidential palace, and are expected to arrive around dusk. “It’s the same politics as Mubarak but we are in a worse situation,” said Sameh al-Masri, one of the organisers on the main stage. “Poverty is increasing, inflation is increasing. It’s much worse than Mubarak.”

The Tahrir protests are peaceful so far, but another wave of demonstrators marched to the presidential palace and the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters, where things got aggressive:

[S]everal dozen youths attacked the headquarters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood on a plateau overlooking the capital. They threw stones and firebombs at the building, and people inside the walled villa fired at the attackers with birdshot, according to an Associated Press Television News cameraman at the scene. Earlier in the day, two offices belonging to the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, were attacked and ransacked in the city of Bani Suef, south of Cairo.

The AP reports that the protesters are made up of “secular and liberal Egyptians, moderate Muslims, Christians – and what the opposition says is a broad sector of the general public that has turned against the Islamists”:

They say the Islamists have negated their election mandate by trying to monopolize power, infusing government with their supporters, forcing through a constitution they largely wrote and giving religious extremists a free hand, all while failing to manage the country. With protesters from a range of social and economic levels in a festive atmosphere, the crowds resembled those from the 18 days of protests against Mubarak – a resemblance the protesters sought to reinforce, chanting the slogan from that time: “The people want to topple the regime.”

Cairo-based journalist Evan Hill reviews the path that led to this moment:

A journalist said it was as if Egypt’s body politic were rejecting a transplant and killing the nation in the process, a fledgling democracy’s auto-immune system gone haywire. …

If Morsi falls or steps down, millions of Egyptians will view it as a victory. Perhaps he could be succeeded by a salvation government, and some kind of stable progress will ensue, though the Brotherhood can hardly be expected to quietly allow their project to dissolve around them, and it would likely mean the return of the army to a guiding role. Revolutions come with chaos. History teaches us that many years may pass before a country comes out of such upheaval with a working government, satisfactory justice and reconciliation, and a consensus about national identity. But even in such a positive scenario, it is hard not to view the first two and a half years of Egypt’s revolution as a series of squandered promises.