At the end of a very long week of escalating tension and massive street demonstrations in Egypt, President Mohamed Mursi addressed the nation the night of Dec. 6 in a lame attempt to diffuse the violence on the streets.
Opposition to Mursi’s constitutional declaration had become increasingly visible Dec. 4 when millions took to the streets all over the country. The massive demonstrations in front of the presidential palace that night were a stark reminder of the size and mood of a night not so long ago in 2011. More clashes are expected over the weekend as the address failed to break the deadlock and increased both the anger and determination of the opposition.
In a long-overdue address, although strong in sound, innuendo and even threats, he managed to disappoint the roaring crowds outside the doors of his palace and frustrate many more who watched the televised speech. The address came a day after violence that left seven dead and more than 700 brutally beaten and wounded literally at his doorstep. In his statement to the people, Mursi said he abhorred the violence and indicated the culprits were known, some even in custody, yet he never gave names or any real evidence of his accusations. His unsubstantiated claims that only members of his Brotherhood were the victims, while evidence and live witnesses to the events were being televised and exchanged in cyber space, only added to the already growing fears of his allegiance among the public. It goes without saying that his supporters of the Brotherhood and others who ally with them were in sync with his rhetoric and continued to play the role of victim and reiterate the fears of a massive conspiracy in the country.
The only apparent result of this painful scenario so far, apart from the loss of life, brutality, use of weapons and attempts to terrorize demonstrators, is indeed the consolidation of all his opposition behind the newly formed “National Salvation Front.” The front has been adamant in portraying group leadership and equally successful in mobilizing and organizing mass protests all over the nation. They have finally given the silent majority an alternative to rally around. The president has unknowingly been instrumental in supporting them by stubbornly refusing to consider revoking his declarations. In the last few weeks, Egypt’s first democratically elected president following the revolution managed to alienate substantial segments of Egyptians. In the days that followed his contested declaration of superpowers, many who had stayed on the sidelines and many more who had actually supported him and elected him were now strongly criticizing him. Some were vocally apologetic to the people for ever supporting him and his Brotherhood. On Dec. 4, as the violence erupted, many of his top aides and officials resigned from their posts in protest.
His address will widen the rift by ignoring and avoiding the real issues rather than confronting them. A general open invitation for a national dialogue the afternoon of Dec. 8 at the presidential palace was Mursi’s way of demonstrating his brand of democracy, which seems to be quite similar to his predecessor’s in its relationship to the opposition, as he totally ignored their plans for a “Red Card” Friday (Dec. 7) that promises to change the political game once again.
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Hala Kholy is a columnist at the Hurriyet Daily News, where this article was first published on Dec. 8, 2012.