….On Friday, Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and their allies will gather in Cairo, as will some opposition groups. On Sunday, the opposition hopes millions will heed their call, a year to the day since Morsi became Egypt’s first freely elected leader.
In his speech, Morsi offered to amend a controversial new constitution and set up a forum for “national reconciliation”, according to reports:
In a televised address lasting more than two and a half hours, the Islamist head of state blamed loyalists of fallen dictator Hosni Mubarak for the “paralysis” that has marked his first year in office but also offered an olive branch to opponents that also seemed to address demands from the army.
He said he was inviting party leaders to meet on Thursday to choose a chairman for an all-party committee that would prepare amendments to the constitution. It was pushed through a referendum late last year with Islamist support, but many in the opposition say the document is flawed and biased against them.
“Political polarization and conflict has reached a stage that threatens our nascent democratic experience and threatens to put the whole nation in a state of paralysis and chaos,” Morsi said. “The enemies of Egypt have not spared effort in trying to sabotage the democratic experience.”
The speech coincided with a declaration by twenty civil society groups that human rights have “deteriorated alarmingly” since the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, charging the ruling Islamists with “the systematic undermining of the rule of law.”
“One year after Morsi became president, it is now clear that the priority of the presidency—and, of course, the Muslim Brotherhood —was to firmly establish the underpinnings for a new authoritarian regime in place of the Mubarak regime,” the NGOs (listed below) announced. “It is no surprise, therefore, that the past year witnessed widespread human rights crimes, on a scale that rivaled than under the Mubarak regime.”
Observers suggested that Morsi’s speech was delivered over the heads of the political class and addressed to ordinary citizens.
“He spoke in a way that many Egyptians could relate to,” said Yasser el-Shimy, Egypt analyst for the International Crisis Group.
“It was a very colloquial speech in which he sounded almost countrified. But it will have done little to convince his non-Islamist opponents.”
But the Brotherhood’s critics were largely dismissive of Morsi’s overtures.
“The arts of oppressive rhetoric in Morsi’s speech include vowing to get back at the conspirators and threatening the people who fail to see his achievements,” said Amr Hamzawy (left), leader of the opposition National Salvation Front. “They pretend to admit making mistakes yet fail to name those mistakes.”
Hamzawy stated that Morsi’s speech is proof of his failure and his inability to create change, Daily News Egypt reports. He added that there is no alternative to demanding early presidential elections.
“There are three chief factors that have inspired the calls for new presidential elections or the restart of the post-revolutionary political process,” according to Amr El-Shobaki, a political analyst in Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies”
The first is the faulty foundation on which the post-revolutionary political order is built. These foundations are so warped and uneven that it is evident that every storey built on top of them will be riddled with dangerous cracks that no amount of patchwork can repair. It seems wiser to begin afresh while we are still at the first stage. …..
The second factor has to do with a group that insists on running the nation while continuing to act as a law unto itself. The Muslim Brotherhood behaves as though it is has been divinely selected, and as though this has placed it above the laws that govern community associations and NGOs and given it license to rule in the interests of its own advancement rather than the advancement of the nation. Rigid organizational bonds and zealous religious indoctrination have instilled in Muslim Brotherhood members an overbearing sense of superiority. ….
The third factor… is the enormous difference between running a society of the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood and running a country. ….Over the past year, the Egyptian people have watched as the Muslim Brothers backtracked on all their promises, failed to live up to their commitments on reconstruction and reform, and persisted in sustaining an incompetent government that was forced on the people in the absence of a parliament to approve it or any other types of constitutional checks.
“A huge segment of public opinion has come to feel that the Muslim Brotherhood is in the process of establishing a state for itself rather than a state for the Egyptian people,” he writes for Al-Ahram.
“Our current dilemma is that this massive discontent has not sunk home with the Muslim Brothers whose sole reaction has been to imagine conspiracies from at home and abroad, without once considering that they may be at fault because of their single-minded drive to monopolies power.”
Some observers believe that violent confrontations during forthcoming protests might prompt the military to intervene in an attempt to end the political impasse.
“The margin for a political solution is definitely very narrow… If (violence) crosses a certain threshold, the role of the army might become by default more proactive,” a senior Western diplomat in Cairo told Reuters:
Islamists, oppressed for decades, fear a return of military rule and hardliners warn of a fight if the generals intervene. They accuse Mubarak-era institutions, including courts, state media, police and civil service, of working to undermine Morsi. An officer in one of Egypt’s internal security agencies told Reuters this week that the country needed to be “cleansed” of the Islamists who he described as terrorists.
International Crisis Group analyst El-Shimy doubts that the army wants, or would try, to assume control and believes it is more likely to push parties to compromise.
“What is going to be a game changer,” he said, “is whether the violence is so massive or out of control that the government is unable to function – which might be a scenario that some are hoping for in order to prompt the military to intervene.”
The undersigned organizations believe that the policies pursued by the Muslim Brotherhood and the presidency are exacerbating the human rights crisis in Egypt. These policies raise the specter of civil conflict and a spiral of violence and counter-violence.
We condemn all forms of violence and intimidation by the Muslim Brotherhood and some Salafi groups, as well as acts of counter-violence by their opponents, which include the torching of dozens of offices of the MB and its party. However, these criminal acts would not have taken place absent systematic policies and practices that have eroded the rule of law. Indeed, public incitement by MB members and supporters to harass protestors has become an accepted policy carried out with impunity.
The undersigned organizations believe that to avoid a collapse of the state into civil strife, the presidency and the government must realize that the legitimacy of governance is based on respect for the principles of the democratic process that brought them to power and that priority must be given to Egyptians’ aspirations for freedom and the promotion of human rights. Political and moral responsibility to the Egyptian citizenry requires that the presidency and the government fully reconsider the policies and practices pursued over the last year and take basic steps to rebuild the trust that has been eroded by their broken promises. The failure to follow through on commitments has been a prominent characteristic of the last year and contributed to the deterioration of the human rights situation and the polarization of Egyptian society, which threatens to send the country spiraling into a cycle of violence.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Andalus Institute for Tolerance & Anti-violence Studies
Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Right Support
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Arab Penal Reform Organization
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Center for Appropriate Communication Techniques
Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Aid
Center for Trade Union and Workers Services
Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights
Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Group for Human Rights Legal Assistance
Habi Center for Environmental Rights
Hisham Mubarak Law Center
Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners
Land Center for Human Rights
Masriyon Against Religious Discrimination
New Woman Foundation