Morsi's presidential palace: Egypt's new venue for airing grievances

Sherif Tarek , Tuesday 3 Jul 2012

Without cabinet or lower house of parliament, protesters are now demanding audiences with Egypt's president at his new residence in Cairo's Oroba district

People with demands in front of Egypt

Egypt's newly-inaugurated President Mohamed Morsi will face considerable difficulty from the outset meeting the people's demands, especially since he has yet to appoint a new administration and the heads of government institutions.

Morsi appears set to face public pressure alone, at least until he draws up a new cabinet and – more importantly – sees the restoration of Egypt's democratically-elected, Islamist-led parliament.  

Although the presidency is currently unable to effectively operate as Egypt's sole body of authority, Morsi plans to establish an office responsible for dealing with citizens' complaints. Demonstrators sporting a list of demands have already materialised outside the presidential residence, and more are expected to follow suit.

Amid a heavy police presence, hundreds of workers from the Alexandria Tires Co. went on Tuesday to the presidential residence – situated in Cairo's upscale Oroba district – to demand unpaid salaries and employment perks.

One day earlier, dozens of workers, taxi drivers and relatives of those detained in May's clashes near the defence ministry in Abbasiya attempted to storm the presidential palace with the intention of presenting Morsi with a list of demands.

The group of protesters, who attempted to climb over the palace gates but who were stopped from doing so by security guards, were given the chance to choose ten representatives to meet with the president and air their grievances. Ultimately, however, protesters failed to agree on the ten delegates.

Earlier the same day, dozens of employees of the Cleopatra Ceramics company, coming from Suez, met the president, asking him to pressure company CEO Mohamed Abul-Enein to keep earlier promises to raise wages and benefits.

Morsi is expected to announce the new prime minister by the beginning of next week, and a new cabinet should be drawn up shortly afterwards.

For months after last year's Tahrir Square uprising, state employees, families of slain and injured protesters, and underpaid police cadets have all staged demonstrations outside cabinet headquarters in downtown Cairo.

Shortly after the uprising, Egyptians with different demands gathered in front of the cabinet building in hopes of meeting with Essam Sharaf, who served as interim prime minister from March to December of last year.

Sharaf, who was picked for the job by revolutionary forces that later turned against him for his inability to deliver on revolutionary demands, was succeeded last December by current interim PM Kamal El-Ganzouri.

But the installation of the military-appointed El-Ganzouri was met with massive demonstrations by revolutionary groups, rather than small groups of people merely issuing demands. The El-Ganzouri Cabinet was widely seen as incompetent by many critics, and is therefore not expected to ease the mounting pressure on Egypt's new president.

Following last year's parliamentary polls, the People's Assembly (the lower house of Egypt's parliament) – the appropriate venue for discussing public demands – became a favoured site for Egyptians wanting to gather and air their grievances.

The People's Assembly was dissolved last month by order of Egypt's military council in accordance to a verdict of the High Constitutional Court finding the law regulating last year's legislative polls unconstitutional. The military council, which assumed executive authority upon  last year's ouster of longstanding president Hosni Mubarak, formally relinquished power to Morsi on 30 June, but kept for itself several executive prerogatives.

The fate of the lower house of parliament has yet to be decided by Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court.

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