Cairo, Jan 25: Two years after Egypt’s revolution began, the country’s schism was on display on Friday as the mainly liberal and secular opposition held rallies saying the goals of the pro-democracy uprising have not been met and denouncing Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
With the anniversary, Egypt is definitively in the new phase of its upheaval. From the revolt that began January 25, 2011 and led to the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, the country has moved into a deeply divisive struggle between ruling Islamists, who say a string of election victories the past year gives them to right to reshape Egypt, and their opponents, who say Islamists are moving to take complete power.
Overshadowing their struggle is an economy in free-fall that threatens to fuel public discontent. The vital tourism sector has slumped, investment shriveled, foreign currencyreserves have tumbled and prices are on the rise. More pain is likely in the coming months if the government implements unpopular new austerity measures.
“Today the Egyptian people continue their revolution,” said Hamdeen Sabahi, a leading opposition leader who finished a close third in presidential elections held in June. “They are saying ‘no’ to the Brotherhood state … We want a democratic constitution, social justice, to bring back the rights of the martyrs and guarantees for fair elections.”
Tens of thousands massed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where the 2011 uprising began, and outside Morsi’s palace, with more heading to join them from other districts.
Banners outside the palace proclaimed, “No to the corrupt Muslim Brotherhood government” and “Two years since the revolution, where is social justice?” Others demonstrated outside the state TV and radio building overlooking the Nile.
Similar if smaller crowds gathered in most of Egypt’s main cities, including the Mediterranean cities of Alexandria. The protesters chanted the iconic slogans of the revolt against Mubarak, this time directed against Morsi — “Erhal! Erhal!” or “leave, leave” and “the people want to topple the regime.”
Clashes broke out for a second day on some side streets near Tahrir and police fired tear gas to disperse the young men throwing stones. There were also clashes in Alexandria and Suez, and in the Delta town of Menouf protesters blocked off railway lines, disrupting trainservices to and from Cairo. The Alexandria clashes left 18 protesters injured, according to Mohammed Sultan, head of Egypt’s ambulance services.
The immediate goal of the protesters is a show of strength to push Morsi to amend the constitution, which was pushed through by his Islamist allies and rushed through a national referendum.