More than a week after the president of Egypt, Mohamed Mursi, gave himself dictatorial power to rule the country, the aftershocks of his action continue to rock Egypt. The highly controversial constitutional declaration and a law to protect the revolution turned out to be a blessing in disguise for his many, but dispersed, political opponents.
As a bright, clear moon lit up Egypt’s skies Tuesday night, Cairo’s main downtown, Tahrir Square, rocked with millions once again. Egyptians once more outdid themselves and surpassed even their own expectations. As one message described it, Tuesday night was the “nineteenth” day of the Egyptian revolution. An air of unity was felt, where finally liberals, socialists, conservatives and revolutionaries all ganged up against Mursi’s declarations, his party, his Brotherhood and his politically Islamized supporters. What could have been yet just one more political rally for or against, turned out to be a united front of Egyptians, including many who had supported Mursi for the presidency and many who had never been down to Tahrir ever before. “The couch party,” as it has been commonly referred to as in the past two years, left the sidelines and joined the bigger party for freedom. There is a clear sense that this will be a turning point, although the direction is not yet clear.
Friday, following his declaration, Mursi addressed supporters outside the presidential palace in an attempt to justify the need for such “temporary measures” to safeguard the country from plots against the nation that he had information on. If that appearance ignited the demonstrations and sit-ins in Tahrir and led to more frustration and clear mistrust of his intentions, his upcoming appearance on state television on Thursday of next week is expected to do more. It is thought his appearance will increase the determination of the newly united-opposition to demonstrate in even bigger numbers this Friday and Saturday in efforts to force Mursi to meet their demands and revoke his earlier declaration. For the second time, supporters of Mursi have been forced into changing their plans for a million-person-strong rally in Tahrir Square that was scheduled for Saturday. The square, as they said, has been “occupied” since Tuesday night. They will also show their numbers, but will rally in front of Cairo University further away in Giza. It is unclear if that call will also be completely canceled as its predecessor was last week. These might be possible tactics to simply keep the threat of severe street clashes and a possible civil war in the picture. Some such unexplained and unjustified clashes around the country have yielded two dead already and hundreds wounded.
Meanwhile, in a race against time and the increasing dropouts in the opposition, the Constitutional Committee is finalizing its almost unanimous votes in 14-hour-sessions to be ready by Saturday. Sunday the courts will rule on the legality of the committee itself. Such a ruling could bring Egypt back to square one again and further away from building its political governing institutions. Negotiations conducted behind the scenes and other serious proposals might succeed in diffusing this newest deadlock as it reaches its climax in the next few days.
This article was first published on the Hurriyet Daily News on Dec. 1, 2012.