Girish Gupta

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On Egypt's struggling post-Revolution opposition
Jun. 9, 2013 — Cairo, Egypt

Featured on RTÉ World Report



As I wander through the crumbling, graffiti-covered streets surrounding Tahrir Square, teenagers hack away at the pavements, breaking them up for rocks to hurl at police.

Gangs of protesters wearing ski masks and armed with gasoline-filled bottles run through the maze of streets surrounding the plaza while denouncing the government of President Mohamed Morsi.

It was here that the Revolution of February 2011 took place. Though now, many here and across the country, are not impressed with its results.

"Morsi has destroyed the country," Essam Esawi, 28, tells me angrily as he stands watching the protests. "I don't have food to eat. I don't have work to do."

Morsi's approval rating is at an all-time low, according to polls. Hatred for his Muslim Brotherhood is to be seen all over Cairo and to a slightly lesser extent the whole of Egypt. But rivals have had little success in filling the vacuum.

I met Emad Gad, Vice President of the Social Democrats, in his office near Cairo’s bustling railway station. "We were too lazy in unifying our parties and nominating our leader," he told me.

More than 20 disparate parties came together in November under the banner of the National Salvation Front, a "coalition of parties from the far-left to the far-right," according to Gad.

The group is headed by the former head of the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei.

The Nobel Prize winner has failed to garner much support from parties allied under the National Salvation Front, or among the public at large, and public disagreements among the opposition are common.

Economic views range from the hard left to free-market values. Some members call for a "civil state" based on citizenship, democracy and social justice. Views on welfare, education, workers' rights and foreign loans vary wildly.

Parliamentary elections were set for last month, however, Morsi has said that they could be postponed until October.

Even if the opposition is able to organize and consolidate both its policies and parties by then, there is little hope that it will resonate with the mainly rural, religious populace. Nearly half of Egyptians earn around $2 a day and the literacy rate is extremely low in comparison to the rest of the region.

"The problem for the liberals is that they don't have a clear vision for the future of the country that is appealing to the people," Mustapha Kamel El-Sayyid, a political science professor at both Cairo University and the American University in Cairo, told me. "Of course people care about political freedoms, but this isn't enough."

While Gad, of the Social Democrats, believes that the majority of protesters in Cairo are supporters of the grouping, Wael Abbas, a blogger and human rights activist who was an important player in the overthrow of the government of Hosni Mubarak, is not impressed with the group that claims to represent him.

"The National Salvation Front don't represent anything in this country," Abbas told me. "These guys hold conferences and meetings in air-conditioned rooms. They don't have popularity among the people."

It is not only the Muslim Brotherhood that the National Salvation Front must contend with. Islamists known as Salafists, who adhere to the Wahabist teachings that informed Osama bin Laden, appear to be gaining in popularity among Egyptians who want a more religious state.

The protesters of Tahrir Square are unsure where to turn.

"The days of Mubarak were better than this," added Esawi glumly, not far from the burned-out shell of the former regime's party headquarters.

Nermin Defrawi, a 55-year-old housewife, added: "If this is the result, the revolution was a mistake."

For World Report, this is Girish Gupta in Cairo

Filed from
Cairo, Egypt






More...

Suez Canal targeted as war in Sinai spreads
Nov. 17, 2013


Egypt Christians mourn after wedding party shooting
Oct. 22, 2013


On Egypt's struggling post-Revolution opposition
Jun. 9, 2013


Egypt's regime is unpopular, but so is the opposition
Jun. 2, 2013








© Girish Gupta