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Egypt poised for less eventful revolution anniversary

Dwindling support for the Muslim Brotherhood and days of mourning declared following the death of Saudi King Abdullah suggest that this year's anniversary of the 2011 revolution will be quiet

Ahram Online , Saturday 24 Jan 2015
Morsi
Students protest at Al-Azhar University in Cairo (Photo: Al-Ahram)
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The fourth anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, which instigated the ouster of longstanding president Hosni Mubarak, is expected to be less eventful Sunday than the past three years.

On the one hand, Egypt's government postponed celebrations marking the 18-day 2011 uprising in mourning for Saudi King Abdullah, who died in the early hours of Friday.

Similarly, the interior ministry said it would call off celebrations of Police Day, also on 25 January, as the country declared a week of mourning for the late monarch.

On the other hand, calls for protests and rallies, akin to those marking past uprising anniversaries, have been negligible.

The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Egypt's second toppled president Mohamed Morsi hails, is expected to stage protests along with allies. Such gatherings are expected to be limited.

Since Morsi was ousted in July 2013 following nationwide demonstrations against his rule, the Brotherhood and supporters have been staging protests against what they describe as a "military coup."

However, a systematic crackdown on the Brotherhood and its allies, as well as the arrest of its leadership and many members, took a toll on the group's mobilisation.

The clampdown has been persistent, leaving the group with minimal ability to instigate noticeable protests ahead of 25 January.

Morsi's loyalists' weak position these days can also be put down to a loss in backing from non-Islamist political forces over the past three years.

Non-Islamist demonstrators in 2012's anniversary were angry with the Brotherhood for supporting the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) during its post-Mubarak interim rule.

Many other political forces at the time were outspoken in their condemnations of how the military was "ignoring revolutionary demands."

On 25 January 2013, when Morsi was still in power, demonstrators more blatantly hit out at the Brotherhood, deploring what they described as the "rule of the supreme guide."

At the time, the group's spiritual leader, Mohamed Badie, was widely believed to be the country's de facto ruler, with Morsi simply serving as a conduit for his commands that opponents believe also didn't fullfil the revolutiion demands.

The 2014 anniversary, which came months after Morsi's 3 July ouster following nationwide protests against his rule, saw mass rallies in support of then army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and less calls for revolutiion demands to be fulfilled.

Protests were staged against now President El-Sisi, the Brotherhood's arch-foe who they believed masterminded Morsi's ouster though the latter appointed him army chief.

On that day, the Way of the Revolution Front, which was considered the only potent non-Islamist opposition group, staged protests against the post-Morsi interim authorities as well.

Yet the umbrella group refused to stand side by side with the Brotherhood.

In the months leading up to the fourth anniversary of the 2011 revolution, protests marches and road blocking have be far less common in Egypt than in previous years.

But Morsi's loyalists have continued to stage regular rallies in defiance of a protest law passed by interim authorities late 2013 that bans all demonstrations not pre-approved by the police.

Protests would usually turn deadly between Morsi's supporters and opponents, whether civilian or from the security apparatus, for almost a year and half.

Although streets have grown calmer in the past months, Egypt has been hit by a cluster of bombings since Morsi's toppling.

Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, a jihadist group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, claimed responsibility for many of these attacks amid its hostility towards the incumbent Egyptian authorities.

In general, Egypt still witnesses violent attacks, which usually target police facilities and personnel, but won't be prone to terrorism on 25 January, said security expert Ehab Youssef.

Youssef stressed that the police are more effective now than over the past three years. "Their presence on the street is more tangible, and that minimises chances for violence."

"But they still need a new strategy to preempt terrorism and not just respond to it," Ehab said.

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