More than 17 million Egyptians took to the streets yesterday to seek the removal of President Mohammad Mursi. No one disputes that Mursi has a democratic mandate, but Egyptians are bitterly angry that he has grossly misused his time in power to seek short-term advantage for his own political party and did not work for a more long-term and inclusive Egypt. The opposition has invented its own deadline for Mursi to resign in two days and will re-gather in their millions on the streets for a further public trial of strength today, as Mursi gathers his own supporters in what will become a long-drawn clash.
The protesters are furious that Mursi has not worked harder to get the parliament re-elected after the Supreme Court suspended it over voting irregularities in a few seats and that he rammed through a pro-Islamist constitution with little consultation with his political opponents and the country’s important minorities. Many are also worried that despite the public distancing of his party from Egypt’s military, he seems to have done a secret deal under which the military will have to back the Islamist government. It is ominous that Defence Minister, General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, has warned the Egyptian people that it was the military’s duty to “prevent Egypt from slipping into a dark tunnel of civil unrest”.
Mursi’s miserable failure to tackle Egypt’s economic problems has fanned people’s already strong anger. Since Mursi took office, the Egyptian pound has lost nearly 20 per cent of its value and Egyptian industry is crippled by fuel and electricity shortages. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians are losing their jobs as companies stop production and new investment has dried up as regional and international investors have avoided Egypt because of valid concerns over the lack of political stability and transparent laws. The next few days will determine if Mursi will be able to chart a new course and restart his faltering presidency or make the mistake of seeking a blazing confrontation with the Egyptian people.