Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Egypt unrest escalates amid calls for nation-wide protests | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Anti-government posters calling for the ouster of Egyptian President and for early presidential elections. EPA/KHALED ELFIQI

Anti-government posters calling for the ouster of Egyptian President and for early presidential elections. EPA/KHALED ELFIQI

Anti-government posters calling for the ouster of the Egyptian president and for early presidential elections. (EPA/KHALED ELFIQI)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Opposition groups in Egypt are calling for a nation-wide demonstration to begin on June 30. The call was issued by Tamarod (Rebellion), a youth group campaigning to withdraw confidence from Mursi in order to hold early presidential elections. The campaign headquarters in Cairo was torched by unknown assailants yesterday, following escalating clashes between factions for and against Mursi.

Earlier this week, senior opposition figure Amr Mousa met with the Muslim Brotherhood deputy supreme guide, Khairat El-Shater, to discuss the deep divisions in Egyptian politics. The meeting was mediated by Ayman Nour, chairman of the El-Ghad Party.

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Mousa revealed that Khairat El-Shater had acknowledged that the Muslim Brotherhood was incapable of administering the country’s affairs at the present time, citing the protests and strikes that have brought Egypt to a virtual standstill.

Mousa, a former Arab League secretary-general, revealed that he told Shater that the Mursi government can do a number of things to respond to the protestors’ demands, such as “[improving] public services and living conditions.”

He told El-Shater that he is “concerned about Egypt’s fate in light of the government’s current policy and the Brotherhood’s lack of experience in running state affairs,” adding that “there are concerns over the civilian nature of the state, the independence of the judiciary, and the unrest in Sinai.”

Mousa has signed the petition calling for protests on 30 June and early presidential elections.

He stressed: “El-Shater did not ask me during the meeting to halt the preparations for the protest…. I stressed the need to understand people’s rage and their right to protest in a peaceful way,” warning Shater of any attacks against the protestors by pro-Mursi supporters.

He described such clashes as being dangerous, adding that “past incidents should not be repeated,” in reference to last year’s clashes between rival Islamist and anti-government protestors.

The senior opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) leader also emphasized that the Egyptian people have the right to “express their opinion,” and that “protesting constitutes a political way for Egyptians to vent their anger.”  

“The Egyptian people are not seeking to topple the regime. Rather, they are calling for early presidential elections; a thing which is part and parcel of the democratic process,” he added.

When asked about the reasons for the protests, he told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Mursi did not fulfill any of the promises he made, whether before or after the presidential elections, such as reforming the Constituent Assembly … and he did not enact the judiciary authority bill.”

Mousa also claimed that Shater “showed some understanding of the people’s anger,” but stressed that he was not part of the presidency or involved in the government, as some people are claiming. He added that the Brotherhood deputy supreme guide described calls for demonstrations as an “unrealistic attempt to mobilize the masses through the media.”

When asked whether the meeting could breed discontent within the opposition, Mousa said: “I am not afraid of being blamed for meeting with Shater,” and that he used the meeting as “an opportunity for the opposition to express its viewpoint and listen to the viewpoint of those in power.”

In a separate development, Ethiopia announced yesterday that it will give the go-ahead for its Great Renaissance Dam project, fanning the flames of discontent among the Egyptian leadership.

Getachew Reda, a spokesman for Ethiopian prime minister Haile Mariam Dessalines, said that Ethiopia plans to continue the project and that construction of the dam does not depend on the political will of Egypt, according to Agence France-Presse.

At the end of May, Ethiopia began to divert the Blue Nile, which meets the White Nile in Khartoum to form the Nile River. The project is estimated to cost EUR 3.2 billion.

The project has angered Egyptians, who claim “historical rights” to the Nile River. An adviser to the Egyptian president said that Cairo would consider “all options” in dealing with the Ethiopian dam project, if it is shown to harm Egypt.