June 26, 2019

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  • Tamarod stokes revolution against Mursi

    A few thousand protesters congregated in Tahrir Square on Friday May 17, spurred by Tamarod, a grassroots movement calling for early presidential elections. (Photo by Hassan Ibrahim)

    BY MAI SHAMS EL-DIN Cairo – Full of enthusiasm, Iman El-Mahdy, member of Tamarod (Rebel) campaign says she never expected that the dream she shared with a group of her friends would become reality.

    Tamarod, a grassroots movement petitioning for a withdrawal of confidence from President Mohamed Mursi, in office since June 2012, announced last week that they had already collected 2 million signatures against Egypt’s first ever elected civilian president.

    The campaign has set a target of 15 million signatures by the end of June, when mass protests are scheduled to coincide with the first anniversary of Islamist-backed Mursi’s ascendance to power. The organizers say they will display the petitions in front of the presidential palace and take them to the Supreme Constitutional Court to demand early presidential elections.

    “In the beginning, we initially planned for a moral victory against the ruling regime. Mursi claims that he possesses constitutional legitimacy by virtue of the 13 million voters who backed him a year ago,” El-Mahdy told The Egypt Monocle. “So we want to show him that there are now 15 million who want to end the contract that he violated over the last year.”

    But the campaign has been criticized for lacking a sound legal base.

    Islamist detractors of the initiative have pointed out that there is no way of verifying the validity of those signatures and eliminating forgery. They slammed the movement for its aim to trump the democratic process through illegal means.

    Former Freedom and Justice Party MP and leading member of the party Mohamed El-Beltagy reportedly said : “I call on the members of the ‘Rebel’ campaign to translate the alleged signatures they collected into a political party that could enable them to gain a majority of seats in the parliament.”

    A widely-hyped protest called by Tamarod last Friday saw merely a few thousand turn up in Tahrir Square.

    Yet protests have been on the rise against President Mursi since he issued a contentious constitutional declaration last November granting himself sweeping powers, as critics say he faces dwindling public support. Even though he retracted his decisions, the fact that he fast-tracked an equally contentious constitution at the same time has sustained opposition against him.

    A recent poll conducted by Baseera (Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research) released last week shows public support for Mursi dropped to 46 percent, compared to 73 percent after his first 100 days in office, while 47 percent of the respondents say they are dissatisfied with his performance.

    The poll also shows that only 30 percent would vote for Mursi if early presidential elections take place, compared to 58 percent after the first 100 days.

    Mursi’s opponents say the ruling Islamist regime follows Mubarak-style policies, accusing it of flagrant rights violations, tighter control over state institutions in addition its impotence in dealing with deteriorating economic conditions.

    El-Mahdy explains that the campaign is very keen on making sure that the petitions are correct, as they developed a database for all the petitions including the identification card numbers of those who signed them.

    “We have a technical team whose primary job is to ensure that the ID numbers are correct and that they are not repeated,” she says. However she declined to give an estimate of the exact number of signatures collected.

    “The last published count is 2 million. But since then we have been receiving many more, we will hold another press conference next week to update the public,” she says.

    El-Mahdy believes that the key to the campaign’s success is that it has been extremely decentralized.

    “We have representatives in all provinces and many political parties have offered their headquarters to help collect signatures. But what really surprised us is the fact that ordinary citizens were voluntarily photocopying the petitions, distributing them among their circles, then submitting them to our representatives,” she says.

    Most of the campaign supporters interviewed by The Egypt Monocle say that the movement has succeeded in capturing public attention.

    “For me, this campaign is the last peaceful solution available to show the entire country that Muslim Brotherhood rule will never end peacefully and that we have already run out of non-violent tactics,” says Nessreen Wahib, a 39-year-old civil servant who lives in the coastal city of Ismailia.

    “I signed the petition online and I photocopied it and sent it to my family and friends who openly supported it,” says the mother of two. “What I like the most about this campaign is that it is a grassroots movement that is not affiliated with any political entity which made people trust it even more.”

    Freelance translator Al-Zahraa Mohamed from the southern city of Mallawy, Minya, agrees.

    “I see this campaign as a public referendum against Mursi’s rule, just like the ballot box,” she says.

    She adds that the campaign has been very popular in her Upper Egyptian hometown  where the majority had voted for Mursi less than a year ago.

    “Upper Egypt provinces stood by Mursi during the elections against Ahmed Shafiq who was a Mubarak-era holdover. But what has he done for us since then? He did nothing for us. The economy is deteriorating,” she says.

    Mohamed complains that most of the youth in her city rely on tourism to earn a living, a sector that was hard hit in the past two years.

    “I boycotted the elections last year, but my family which voted for Mursi, is now fed up. They enthusiastically signed the petition,” she explains.

    However, critics of the campaign say that a moral victory is not enough, and that it is important to have more practical steps to challenge the strong electoral base run by the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm the Freedom and Justice Party.

    “I am not a huge supporter of the movement and I will not sign the sheet. I don’t think that this is the solution at the moment,” says Reem Gehad, a journalism school graduate.

    “While gathering signatures may raise morale or exert pressure, I don’t really think that it will make any practical difference,” she adds.

    Ideally, she believes that working on a political alternative to the Brotherhood’s tightly-organized structure is the key.

    “Leadership with a clear vision and a feasible plan to reform the country and a leadership that would take practical decisions to execute those reforms are the solution.

    “But this is not the case because we are bogged down by political and legal dilemmas and conflicts. I don’t know the solution for that! I am just another citizen,” Gehad says.

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