Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Egyptian President Morsi Imposes State of Emergency in Three Governorates

Egyptian President Morsi Imposes State of Emergency in Three Governorates

Mass demonstrations mark second anniversary of uprising, dozens killed

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptian youth and workers took to the streets on January 25 in commemoration of the second anniversary of the uprisings that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak. Progressive and revolutionary forces inside this North African state say that the aims of the mass movement have been betrayed by the current Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) government of President Mohamed Morsi.

On January 26, after a court verdict in Port Said which sentenced several residents to death, unrest erupted that resulted in the deaths of 30 people and the injuring of many others. The court case involved the infamous Port Said massacre of February 1, 2012, where clashes at a soccer game ended with the deaths of over 70 people.

In the aftermath of the January 26 killings in Port Said and the demonstrations which swept the country on January 25, President Morsi declared a state of emergency in the Canal governorates of Suez, Ismailia and Port Said. These measures have granted the armed forces the authority to “safeguard state institutions against saboteurs and restore security.” (Ahram Online, January 28)

The state of emergency was approved by the Muslim Brotherhood dominated Shura Council in an attempt to provide legal legitimacy to the actions by the president. Sobhi Saleh of the FJP and deputy chairman of the council’s legislative affairs committee, said that the new security declarations amended Decree 107 of 2012.

Saleh said that “The law gives the president the right to extend the powers granted to the armed forces for a further period if circumstances require him to do so. In this respect the army will be granted powers exercised by police forces, while the president—upon the request of the interior minister and with the approval of the National Defense Council—can also ask the army to provide support to police in the form of armed troops.”

Opposition forces throughout the country have condemned the state of emergency declaration. Morsi, who addressed the nation on the evening of January 27 and characterized the upsurge of mass demonstrations around the country as a “counter-revolution”, also called for dialogue with the opposition parties and coalitions, many of which have demanded his resignation and the repeal of the recently-passed constitution.

Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, co-founder of liberal Constitution Party, in response to the president’s call for talks said on his Twitter feed that “Any dialogue is a waste of time if the president doesn’t take responsibility for the bloody events and doesn’t vow to form a national salvation government and a balanced committee to amend the constitution.” Khaled Dawoud, a spokesperson for the umbrella opposition coalition the National Salvation Front (NSF) stressed that “If the president really wanted to protect lives he would have directed his government to take security measures in Port Said prior to the announcement of the verdict.” (Ahram Online, January 28)

Another opposition party, the Egyptian Popular Current (EPC), which was co-founded by Nasserite presidential contender during the first round of the 2012 elections, Hamdeen Sabbahi, said that Morsi’s statements imposing a state of emergency in three Suez governorates revealed his limited understanding of the grave crisis in which the country is undergoing. The EPC has rejected Morsi’s call for dialogue as well.

Sabbahi noted that “Even though the Egyptian Popular Current supports constructive national dialogue, it rejects being part of a dialogue as long as the regime continues its crimes against protesters and carries out unsuccessful policies.” The party demanded that Morsi adopt political rather than security measures to deal with the current unrest in the country.

Another left organization, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, rejected the offer of dialogue too and suggested that urgent trials be held for those who had killed the protesters, including first and foremost the interior minister. The liberal Conference Party, headed by former Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa, who also ran for president last year, said that it would consider the offer by Morsi for discussions on the crisis.

Nonetheless, more conservative parties either supported or were seriously considering talks with the FJP government. The Strong Egypt Party, led by former Muslim Brotherhood member and 2012 presidential nominee, Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, seemed open to dialogue. This was the case as well with the Islamist Party, a more moderate organization, which has Mohamed Osman as a leading figure within the group.

The Salafist Nour Party, which is aligned with the FJP, said that the imposition of the state of emergency was necessary. This group was joined by Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya and its political wing, the Building and Development Party, which welcomed the president’s call for dialogue with the opposition.

Demonstrations Demand Real Transformation of Egyptian Society

The demonstrations that began on January 24 and extended over the next five days have posed the gravest challenge to the President Morsi’s FJP government. Protesters seized Tahrir Square in Cairo and other actions were held throughout the city as well as the suburbs of the capital.

Other unrest was reported in Alexandria, Suez, the Nile Delta and Upper Egypt. Even prior to the shootings in Port Said on January 26, at least five people had been killed during protests and rebellions.

People set fire to government buildings and the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood and the FJP. Clashes erupted between supporters and opponents of the government.

In Alexandria on January 28, thousands of people blocked the roads and railways in protest against the state of emergency and the failure of the government to address the demands of the people. The initial slogans of the Egyptian Revolution: “Freedom, Bread and Social Justice” rang loud throughout the country.

The sound of an explosion was heard in the Alexandria train station during the blockade prompting many to flee the area. Demonstrators chanted “Down, down with the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide! Down, down with Morsi! Leave we are poor people!”

One protester, Ramy Mahmoud, told Ahram Online that “We decided to cut off the trains because people are going through their lives as if nothing happened and maybe if we stop them they will feel our pain.”

A Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Anas El-Qady said that “The events of Alexandria that have taken place throughout the last week, including storming the criminal court, setting police cars on fire, storming the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters, blocking roads and railroads, and using Molotov cocktails and rocks are all acts of thuggery and should be shunned by the media.”

Unrest in Egypt has also caused a precipitous drop in the value of its currency, the pound. The stock market has plunged and promises of investment from Qatar business interests are seriously threatened.

The government of President Morsi has failed to break with the U.S. and the State of Israel. The International Monetary Fund has offered Egypt a $4.8 billion loan under the conditions that it maintains its alliance with Washington and other allied states.

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