What to expect on 30 June

Hicham Mourad , Wednesday 26 Jun 2013

The weight of popular mobilisation against President Morsi's government will probably force concessions

For the liberal and secular opposition, mainly those under the umbrella of the National Salvation Front (NSF), but other opposition groups such as the ‘Rebel’ (tamarod) campaign and the 6 April Youth Movement, the true barometer of their success is their ability to mobilise the population on June 30, and thereafter, to force the Muslim Brotherhood regime to make political concessions.

In this context, the Rebel campaign, which accuses the president, who hails from the Brotherhood of failing to keep his promises to initiate a democratic transition process including all political forces, claims to have reached its goal of 15 million popular signatures supporting its claim to hold early presidential elections.

It remains to be seen if it will succeed, along with other opposition forces, to translate these signatures into mass rallies in the street on June 30. While all the evidence suggests that the popular mobilisation that day will be very important, the question is whether it will be merely by hundreds of thousands, or by millions of people. These figures are very important because they show the state of popular disaffection vis-à-vis the president in particular and the regime of the Brotherhood in general.

It is a crucial parameter for subsequent events, whether it is the reaction of the regime and the concessions it has to make to respond to the popular demands, or the future policy of the opposition.

For the regime, the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), it is to overcome the test of 30 June at the lowest cost. What they want primarily is to prevent the outbreak of violence; the first to pay the price in this case would be the regime.

Previous outbreaks of violence, such as in December 2012 outside the presidential palace or in January 2013 on the second anniversary of the revolution, have all put the regime on the defensive, tarnished its image and eroded its popularity, because of police violence or forceful intervention of supporters of the Brotherhood against the demonstrators.

This time, despite the draconian security measures, including the deployment of army units in key locations in the capital, several indications show a very high risk of outbreak of violence due to a climate of high tension and extreme polarisation between the two opposing camps, the liberal opposition and the Islamist current.

Several components of the latter, including the Brotherhood and the ultraconservative  group Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, have called for counter-demonstrations in support of the president.

Several religious satellites channels as well as Islamist leaders have also vilified the protesters of 30 June, accusing them of being criminals, saboteurs, communists, atheists, radical Copts, etc. The charges were there to discredit or discourage potential participants from participating in the protests at the end of the month.

These developments have made the political climate particularly tense, with the Salafist Nour Party describing the situation as a "state of war". Opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, this party has rejected the way supporters of the president, to galvanise their troops, have presented the conflict as being between "believers” and “infidels".

Nour, the second largest political force after the FJP, have stated that they too are opposed to the policies of President Morsi without that meaning that they are opposed to the Islamist project. This ultra-conservative party has distanced himself from the Brotherhood, after having been marginalised by the president at the beginning of the year, and joined the rest of the opposition in the denunciation of the regime's hegemonic policies.

On 30 June, the possible eruption of violence will be primarily between protesters and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist current. The Ministry of Interior has made clear its intention to stay out of any confrontation with the demonstrators.

Wanting to avoid past mistakes, the interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, stressed that the role of the police would be limited to protecting public buildings and would not be extended to the headquarters of political parties, in allusion to the FJP and the headquarters of the Brotherhood, scenes of violent clashes last March. The minister also stated that protection of the presidential palace is the responsibility of the Republican Guard.

In early March, thousands of police officers and members of the security forces took part in an unprecedented strike movement to protest their use by the regime as a repressive tool against opposition demonstrations and to denounce the "Brotherhoodization" of the Ministry of Interior.

Other police officers criticize the laxity of the regime against Islamic terrorists in Sinai. The recent funeral of a counter-terrorism policeman, killed by jihadists in this border region close to Israel, turned into a protest against the regime and the president.

June 30 is primarily a symbolic date marking the end of the first year of the Islamist president in power. It was chosen by the independent Rebel campaign, who have so far been the first group in Egypt to deploy a signature petition as a tool of opposition and rejection of the regime.

The method has no legal basis, since it is not mentioned in the constitution or in any law relating to the exercise of political rights. But its success in reaching the stated goal - collecting 15 million signatures, outnumbering the 13.2 million votes cast for Morsi in the second round of presidential elections - coupled with a strong popular mobilisation, will constitute an undeniable political force demonstrating the growing popular disaffection with the regime.

This fact will likely force the regime to make the necessary concessions to defuse the crisis.

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