Political rift widens as Islamists and opposition forces swap accusations

Ahram Online, Sunday 27 Jan 2013

Political polarisation in Egypt has reached new levels amid ongoing violence across the country in the wake of the 2011 revolution second anniversary

Egypt’s political rift widens as Islamists
Egyptian protesters clash with police, unseen, in Port Said, Egypt, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 (Photo: AP)

Egypt’s political turmoil has reached a new climax in the past few days with the Islamist sphere — from which the regime hails — and opposition forces swapping bitter accusations on violent nationwide clashes.

The National Association for Change (NAC) said the Muslim Brotherhood, to whom President Mohamed Morsi is aligned, has used the same tactics adopted by the Mubarak regime two years ago, saying the group was mainly responsible for the violence.

“The Brotherhood group and its allies have stolen the revolution over the past years,” an NAC statement reads Sunday. “[People] declared their will to restore the revolution, whereupon the outlines of a satanic plot emerged.

“It became clear upon using flocks of thugs who have always been deployed by authorities of the toppled president (Mubarak) to assault the revolution and the revolutionaries, exactly like what happened on 28 January 2011.”

On the second anniversary of the 2011 revolution Friday, hundreds of thousands hit the streets chanting slogans against Morsi and the Brotherhood, charging both with failing to fulfill the demands of the revolution after assuming power.

Protests turned violent with hundreds of injuries reported in Cairo, Alexandria, Beheira, Luxor, Kafr El-Sheikh, Gharbia, Sharqia, Ismailia and Suez. In the latter city, nine protesters were killed as public and private properties were attacked.

On Saturday, 30 more were killed in fierce confrontations that broke out in Port Said, where police forces locked horns with families and supporters of 21 defendants sentenced to death in connection to last year's Port Said stadium massacre where over 70 Ahly football club fans died in a violent attack by Masry fans (from Port Said).

Tensions remain high across Egypt as clashes continue in Port Said.

“They (thugs) killed and terrorised citizens … amid the support of the Brotherhood rule’s figures, such as Mohamed El-Beltagy and his colleagues,” added the secular NAC on Sunday.

The Brotherhood, a day earlier, blamed "thugs," "misleading" media, and opposition parties for the violence, before Al-Gamaa Al-Islamyia, an ultra-conservative Islamic group, echoed similar sentiments.

“Those considered to be from the communist, socialist and secularist currents [are to be blamed] for the violence plaguing Egypt,” Al-Gamaa’s press release reads. “(They want to) spread chaos and make people in Egypt and outside believe that there is a popular revolution, and to create turbulence on a wider scale.”

The statement added: “Excluding Port Said, riots and violence only erupted in 40 streets as 30 buildings were torched, but the media that is still loyal to the old regime is trying to make it looks as though all Egypt is burning.

“The (National) Salvation Front (NSF) is still providing a political cover for the violence practiced by militias that appeared under different names such as the Black Bloc, with hope the people would join them or to see a military coup.”

No agreement reached

The NSF — Egypt’s main opposition group — has urged President Morsi to have formed a neutral legal committee to amend the “distorted” constitution passed amid fierce controversy in December.

Protesters the past few days called for the cancellation of the "unrepresentative" constitution drafted by the outgoing Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly and newly ratified by Morsi.

Among four other demands, the NSF also demanded the formation of a national salvation government with the “efficiency and credibility" necessary to "implement the demands of the revolution.”

For its part, the National Defence Council (NDC) said it might consider declaring a state of emergency in areas of violence and called for dialogue with opposition forces amid ongoing unrest in several governorates.

Khaled Dawoud, spokesman of the NFS, said the council’s call for a dialogue is considered a way of ignorning the NSF's demands, saying dialogue “would be pointless” without fulfilling these demands.

The Egyptian Popular Current (EPC), created by ex-presidential hopeful and Nasserist Hamdeen Sabbahi, expressed some reservations about the NDC’s statement.

"The National Defence Council did not address the genuine motives for people to take to the streets, whether economic ones with the removal of subsidies on basic commodities, or political ones with the hegemony of one political faction over the country," read an EPC statement

The EPC asserted that it welcomed any calls for aserious national dialogue on condition that "an agenda known to all concerned parties is set, sessions are held publicly, and guarantees are provided for what will be agreed upon" so that the process does not end in a "dictator dialogue," in reference to previous national dialogue sessions held with the president over the constitution.

Meanwhile, the Strong Egypt Party, founded by Islamist and former presidential candidate Abdel-Moniem Aboul-Fotouh, called on Morsi to form a consensual crisis-managing committee that would include, as initially suggested, opposition figures Mohamed ElBaradei and Hamdeen Sabbahi as well as Brotherhood leaders Khairat El-Shater and Saad El-Katatni.

The presidency and figures named has yet to respond to the suggestion.

Among the tasks of the committee, the Strong Egypt Party said in a statement, would be forming a temporary governement and an investigative committee to bring to justice those responsible for the nationwide violence.

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