Political Violence Grips Egypt From All Sides


CAIRO, Feb 17 (IPS) – Since the second anniversary of the uprising that ended the Mubarak regime, Egypt has witnessed a spate of political violence. Egypt’s opposition led by the high-profile National Salvation Front (NSF) blames President Mohamed Morsi for the bloodshed, but many blame the NSF and its leaders.”The NSF’s slowness in condemning recent violence has made it appear to the public as if it were condoning – even inciting – acts of violence and sabotage,” Amr Hashim Rabie, senior analyst at the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies told IPS.

Egypt’s non-Islamist opposition, he added, “may pay the price for this perception in upcoming parliamentary elections.”

The second anniversary of Egypt’s Jan. 25 Revolution and its aftermath have been accompanied by outbreaks of violence across the country. NSF-led rallies and marches have led to numerous clashes between anti-government protesters and police that have so far left more than 50 dead, including security personnel.

Monday Feb. 11, the second anniversary of Mubarak’s ouster, saw renewed skirmishes between aggressive protesters and police outside the presidential palace in Cairo. In what has become a new means of expressing political dissent, anti-government protesters also cut Cairo’s metro line and blocked the capital’s busy 6 October Bridge.

In recent months, the NSF – a loose coalition of opposition parties and groups headed by Amr Moussa, Hamdeen Sabbahi (both of whom lost to Morsi in presidential polls last summer) and Mohamed ElBaradei – has taken the lead in articulating the demands of Egypt’s non-Islamist opposition. These demands include amendment of Egypt’s new
constitution, the appointment of a new government, and the dismissal of a Morsi-appointed prosecutor-general.Opposition spokesmen have been quick to blame President Morsi for the recent bloodshed, along with the Muslim Brotherhood group from which he hails. But according to Rabie, most of the public – weary after months of political turmoil – holds the NSF-led opposition directly responsible for much of the ongoing violence and mayhem.
“Recent opinion polls show that most Egyptians blame the NSF for sowing chaos and inciting bloodshed, damaging property both public and private, and hurting the economy by damaging Egypt’s already-reeling tourism industry,” he said.
Rabie attributed this perception to failures by the NSF to speedily condemn recent acts of violence and sabotage. “The NSF has been woefully slow in distancing itself from violent acts because it hasn’t wanted to alienate the non-peaceful activists who answered its calls for anti-government rallies.”
Conversations with several average Egyptians appeared to support Rabie’s assertions.
“I had been planning to vote against the Brotherhood in upcoming parliamentary polls, but given the opposition’s recent aggressive behaviour, I’m going to give my vote to the Brotherhood candidate,” said Karim, a 39-year-old Cairo physician who preferred not to give his last name.
Ahmed Kamel, spokesman for Amr Moussa (head of the liberal Conference Party and leading NSF member), rejected the notion that the public blamed the NSF for bloodshed.
Describing recent opinion polls to this effect as “unscientific,” Kamel told IPS: “The NSF did not call for or incite any of the recent violence, at the presidential palace or elsewhere. The NSF simply voices the people’s demands.”
But if the NSF wants to speak for people, “it should focus on electoral campaigning with a view to winning a majority in parliament,” said Azab Mustafa, prominent member of both the Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). “Until then, it can’t claim to speak on behalf of ‘the people’.”

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