Egyptians camping in the revolutionary heart of Cairo’s Tahrir Square greeted the New Year on Tuesday (Jan. 1) with fear and concern over the country’s struggle to cope with an economic crisis.
Groups of people protesting against the presidency of Mohammed Mursi clapped and sang anti-government songs beneath banners lambasting the president for the way the country is being governed.
Sitting around a fire in Tahrir Square, home of the mass uprising that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago, the atmosphere seemed upbeat. But anger over the way ongoing streets protests have been dealt with was palpable.
“My message to Mohamed Mursi? You must step down and leave to stabilize the country, because Egypt will not be stable under your rule. We tried Mubarak on charges of failure to protect demonstrators, but how many demonstrators have been killed under your watch? You are responsible for them and you should be prosecuted, as Mubarak was tried,” said Tarek Qadri.
An Egyptian constitution drafted by Islamists and approved in a national referendum last month has prompted a series of street protests and clashes.
A coalition of leftists, socialists, Christians, and more liberal-minded Muslims accuses Mursi of pushing through a constitution that does not reflect Egypt’s diversity, while Mursi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, said the new constitution was a step towards achieving stability.
The political turmoil has had a deep economic impact.
Egypt’s central bank said on Saturday (December 29) that foreign reserves were now at a critical level and could barely cover three months of imports while the Egyptian pound hit a record low on Sunday (December 30) after the central bank imposed a new currency regime to try and stem a deepening economic crisis.
In Tahrir square, protester, Mahmoud al-Sharqawi, said the whole economy had been mismanaged.
“We do have fears about the current economic situation, because there should have been a plan right after the revolution. There should be projects in which people can work, alongside more crisis management leadership,” he said.
“But the Muslim Brotherhood has failed to manage the severe economic crisis -- they do not know how to improve the economic situation because they are not relying on the experienced leaders, they’re only appointing people they trust instead of the experienced figures,” he told Reuters television.
“That leads to failure and makes the situation deteriorate. They are responsible for all of these problems,” he added.
Anti-Mursi protesters are gearing up for a million-man rally on the second anniversary of the January 25th revolution, to demonstrate against the constitution and Mursi’s rule.
Protester Ali Sohagy accused Mursi of being completely out of touch with the people.
“I’m telling Mursi -- who I do not recognize as president -- to leave, because the coming uprising will be a revolution of the hungry. Two days ago you were not speaking about Egypt, you were speaking about another state: it was the state of Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.
“You were not speaking about us because you do not feel how Egyptians
are struggling. You were addressing a speech to another nation, not Egypt. You know nothing about Egyptian people. You do not know that we are camping here under tents, you do not know that we are sharing money together to bring food,” he added.
Two-fifths of Egypt’s 84 million population live around the poverty line and depend on subsidies that are straining the treasury.
Egypt won preliminary approval for a much-needed IMF loan in November, but delayed seeking final approval until January to buy time to explain a heavily criticized package of economic austerity measures to the public.