At least 110 people were injured in violent clashes between protesters and police during rallies to mark the second anniversary of the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian regime, AP reports:
The two sides clashed throughout the day Friday in Cairo, Alexandria, the cities of Suez and Ismailia on the Suez Canal and a string of others, with police firing tear gas and protesters responding with stones.
“Today the Egyptian people continue their revolution,” said Hamdeen Sabahi, an opposition leader who finished a close third in last June’s presidential elections. “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.”
The anniversary has highlighted the growing polarization between Islamists and secular groups, as well as growing concerns about freedom of expression, judicial independence and the Muslim Brotherhood’s penetration of state institutions.
“It is impossible to impose a constitution on Egyptians, a constitution which was sponsored by the Supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the revolution today will bring this constitution down,” said Alaa al-Aswany, Egypt’s bestselling novelist and democracy advocate who today marched with Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei to Tahrir Square.
Many activists and analysts believe President Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood has hijacked the democratic transition, failed to consult or compromise with rivals and adopting increasingly authoritarian practices.
“Egypt is in a bad place. It’s been wholly consumed with issues of power, and governance has been left by the wayside. None of this had to be,” said Michael W. Hanna, a senior fellow at the New York-based Century Foundation. “It was a conscious decision to eschew reform by consensus. … For them (the Brotherhood) it’s not about reform it’s about power.”
The Islamists’ critics say the Brotherhood is trying to colonize state institutions and pursuing a process of Islamization by stealth.
“I am taking part in today’s marches to reject the warped constitution, the ‘Brotherhoodization’ of the state, the attack on the rule of law, and the disregard of the president and his government for the demands for social justice,” tweeted Amr Hamzawy, a prominent liberal politician.
“Based on everything I have seen and read, thus far the Brothers have continued to use the language of democratic change, but they have dealt with internal challenges through a variety of authoritarian means,” writes Steven A. Cook, an Egypt expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“To be sure, it is still early in Egypt’s transition, but there is reason to be concerned that the Brotherhood/FJP/Morsi are setting the trajectory of Egyptian politics on a non-democratic course,” he asserts.
Analysts suggest that Morsi “is clearly working to install networks of allies over key parts of the state,” The New York Times reports:
He has named Brotherhood members as governors in 7 out of 28 provinces. In a cabinet shake-up, he named another Brotherhood member as minister of local development, who under the new Constitution could have new powers over day-to-day local government.
Although Mr. Morsi has the legitimacy of a democratic election, he has inherited the still-intact remnants of Mr. Mubarak’s authoritarian state, built on fear, loyalty and patronage, and much of it permeated by a deep distrust of the Islamists. The bureaucracy’s resistance could prevent the Islamists from imposing their ideology or building a new dictatorship.
Emad Shahin, a political scientist at the American University in Cairo, said that so far the Brotherhood takeover sometimes appears to be working in reverse.
“You feel that the institutions are taking over Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood,” tells The Times, “not the other way around.”
The country’s political dynamics are unlikely to foster a majority consensus conducive to a liberal democratic transition.
“Egypt’s current state of polarized politics encourages the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party to move to the right in order to pick up Salafi support,” analyst Zack Gold writes in The National Interest. “It also discourages Salafi parties from compromising on issues of importance to their constituents.”
“An ever growing, if periodically discouraged, portion of the population opposes the government and Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, and supports the revolution’s goals of social and economic justice, accountable government, and basic freedoms, including freedom of expression and protection of minorities,” she argues. “Yet the government is moving in exactly the opposite direction, with its authoritarian control over political, social, and religious life.”
The Brotherhood decided against mobilizing its supporters to celebrate the anniversary and focused instead on its recently-launched Together We Build Egypt campaign, the latest of its characteristic grassroots organizing efforts that have helped it emerge as Egypt’s most powerful political force
“The Brotherhood is very concerned about escalation, that’s why they have tried to dial down their role on January 25,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center.
“It’s definitely tense on the ground, but so far there hasn’t been anything out of the ordinary or anything that really threatens to fundamentally alter the political situation,” he told Reuters.
In Tahrir Square, protesters echoed the chants of 2011′s historic 18-day uprising. “The people want to bring down the regime,” they chanted. “Leave! Leave! Leave!” chanted others as they marched towards the square.
“We are not here to celebrate but to force those in power to submit to the will of the people. Egypt now must never be like Egypt during Mubarak’s rule,” said Mohamed Fahmy, an activist.