Egypt marks 2 years of revolt

2013-01-23 09:00

Cairo - Egypt on Friday marks two years since the start of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak and brought in an Islamist president, at a time of deep political divisions and fears of an economic crisis.

After the seismic political changes of 2011, the Arab world's most populous nation is struggling to find its balance, between a leadership that boasts the legitimacy of the ballot and opponents who accuse the Islamists of betraying the goals of the revolution that brought them to power.

Opposition groups have called for mass street protests across the country on Friday against President Mohammed Morsi and the powerful Muslim Brotherhood on whose ticket he ran for president.

The National Salvation Front, the largest opposition bloc, has called for rallies "in all the Tahrir Squares of the country", referring to the capital's symbolic heart of the Egyptian revolt.

Sixteen other parties and movements have said they would take part in the protests against the president they call "Morsi Mubarak" for failing to reform post-revolution Egypt.

The slogan that brought Egypt to its feet in 2011 - "bread, freedom, social justice" - is out once again, highlighting the fact that many feel little has been achieved since 2011.

Authorities have vowed to keep security forces off Tahrir Square to decrease the risk of confrontations, but they said police would be in the surrounding areas to arrest troublemakers.

Tension in the country is also high ahead of a court verdict on Saturday in the trial of dozens of defendants over the country's worst football disaster.

Stadium deaths

More than 70 people were killed in Port Said in February last year during clashes in the Suez Canal city between fans of home side Al-Masry and the Ultras of Cairo's Al-Ahly.

Thousands of supporters of Al-Ahly club demonstrated in Cairo last week to demand severe punishments for those responsible for the stadium deaths and have vowed to launch a "new revolution" if justice is not served.

The spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mahmud Ghozlan, has said that his movement has yet to decide whether it hold any events on 25 January which has become a public holiday.

But the powerful movement told reporters it is launching several charity projects to mark the second anniversary.

"Egypt is still in transition, and this will continue while demands for justice, social progress and the fight against corruption are not satisfied," said Ahmed Abd Rabbo, professor of political science at Cairo University.

"But we cannot say that Egypt has not moved forward on the path to democracy. Egyptians have seen five elections or referendums in two years, and have proved that they're capable of choosing through the ballot boxes," he told AFP.

Despite being deeply fragmented after the uprising, the opposition came together last month to oppose an Islamist-drafted constitution.

The text was eventually approved but left the country deeply divided ahead of parliamentary elections.

Morsi is the first Egyptian leader elected in a free election, following a brief transition led by a military council, and the first Islamist and civilian to head the country.

Life in jail

His critics accuse him of placing Islamist ideology above the national interest, as well as of incompetence in dealing with public affairs.

He is also facing an economic crisis: foreign investment has plunged, tourism is in crisis and a budget deficit shows no sign of recovery.

Foreign reserves have fallen to a "critical minimum" of $15bn, according to the central bank, while the local currency is at its lowest level against the dollar.

A $4.8bn loan from the International Monetary Fund, which was due to be finalised in 2012, is still being negotiated.

Two years after he was forced to resign, Mubarak, who was sentenced to life in jail for his involvement in the deaths of protesters in 2011, has been granted a retrial but the ailing former president's fate has for many become irrelevant.