Morsi calls for talks with opposition to end civil unrest in Egypt

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JANUARY 28, 2013

Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi has had to learn quickly as the leader of Egypt. Morsi, who after being elected attempted to illegally give himself more power than he was supposed to have, rapidly found out that the Egyptian people had not revolt against Mubarak simply to welcome a new dictator.

The Egyptian leader, went from wanting power over other government branches to waving the white flag and calling on the opposition to sit down and hold talks with him today in Cairo. Morsi believes that new meetings will show his willingness to be inclusive, which may help  pacify the Eastern region that for the past four days has been on fire with a series of disturbances that claimed more than 50 lives.

Violence on the streets is seen sporadically in different parts of the country, but it almost always such violence has a very high price. One person died from a gunshot to the chest in the iconic Tahrir Square in Cairo. Meanwhile, the Army is stationed in the streets of Port Said and Suez, by order of the government, which has declared a state of emergency in those two cities and Ismailia.

The meeting will be held at 18.00 Egyptian time at the presidential palace, where Morsi expects to meet with several Islamist groups such as the Party for Freedom and Justice, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, which supports Morsi, along with other secular organizations, the Constitution Party and the Social Democratic Party.

In a televised address to the nation on Sunday night, Morsi said he believes that “dialogue is the only way to bring stability to Egypt” and that the violence seen in recent days is “alien to the Egyptians and the revolution. ”

While Morsi called on the opposition to renounce violence seen in the context of the second anniversary of the riots that deposed Hosni Mubarak, his detractors have called for a demonstration today to commemorate the so-called “Friday of Rage”, which occurred on January 28 2011, when the revolutionaries managed the withdrawal of the armed forces and took Tahrir Square, where the hottest concentrations of  Egyptians set down since the protests began. Opponents joined with the National Salvation Front and called for Morsi to repeal the recently passed Islamist constitution, approved by referendum in December.

The curfew, between 21:00 and 06:00, is in force in Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, the three provinces where the government declared a state of emergency. In Port Said, the main focus of violence, riots started by the death sentence of 21 accused in the killing that took place in a  football stadium of the Al Masry soccer team, which killed 74 fans of the visiting team in February last year.

In the rest of the nation the riots were due to protests by the opposition for what it considers a hijacking of the democratic principles of the revolution by the Islamist Government led by Morsi. The government called for parliamentary elections for next April, but the opposition already said it will boycott them if Morsi does not repeal the Constitution and creates a national unity government.

For the fifth consecutive day, riots have occurred intermittently between youth groups and the security forces on the outskirts of Tahrir Square, in Kasr al-Aini Street and Yusef el-Guindi. In their attempts to disperse the youths, mostly using stones and petrol bombs, police used tear gas and shot pellets.

One person has died from the wounds in the chest by one of these missiles. According to the newspaper Al Ahram, it was a pedestrian walking in Tahrir that suddenly found himself in the middle of an altercation.

Soon after it arrived from the global forum in Davos, the Egyptian prime minister, Hisham Kandil, made a surprise visit to the police forces deployed around Tahrir Square. According to police sources, Kandil urged the police to use force against those who attack the institutions and state property.

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Egypt: New breeding ground for government-sponsored Terrorism

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | DECEMBER 24, 2012

The tumultuous post revolutionary Egypt already has its new Constitution. According to unofficial results published by the local press, those who voted for the new ruling document gained even more support in the second phase of the referendum which is sponsored by Islamists. However, the victory has been questioned due to numerous reports of irregularities in the vote count. The new Egyptian constitution is hardly a step that enables a smooth transition to stability.

Strong participation in major Islamist strongholds, increased support for the Constitution to 71%, about 15 points higher than in the first part of the referendum. In the southern provinces of Beni Suef, and Qena it reached 85%. Adding both days, the average hit 64%.

Islamist leaders have welcomed the completion of a milestone that they qualify as “historic”. “We hope that the adoption of the new constitution is a historic opportunity to unite all political forces on the basis of mutual respect,” said Murad Ali, a spokesman for the Freedom and Justice Party (JLP), the electoral arm of the Muslims Brotherhood. According to current regulations no qualified majority was necessary to ratify the draft of the constitution.

However, the opposition considers the process illegitimate. “There has been widespread irregularities that have altered the result … We will file a complaint to the Attorney General documenting them,” said in a statement the National Salvation Front, the main opposition coalition that brings together political figures such as Nobel Peace Prize Mohamed ElBaradei and former presidential candidates Musa Amr and Hamdin Sabbahi.

Due to the speed of the call to the polls, no international organization monitored the referendum, but officials highlight the presence of some twenty Egyptian NGOs, most of which publicly requested a repeat of the voting due to fraud. Among the most common violations cited by observers was conducting campaign in mosques as well as inside polling stations, and the lack of judges to ensure the cleanliness of the vote.

The Electoral Commission is examining the allegations before offering the official result of its query. The chances that the commission calls for a repetition of the process, however, are almost null. During the presidential election, no tangible evidence was presented to support accusations of fraud, but the judicial authorities who monitored the elections and concluded that the irregularities were minor and posed no decisive threat to the result of the voting.

Judging by statements issued in recent days, the Islamists seem to be aware of the need to increase social support for the Constitution. “The articles rejected by the opposition are a few. We are willing to negotiate with them to make amendments and approve them in the new parliament,” says Ashraf Ismail, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the province of Beni Suef.

Beyond the high percentage collected by the no, there is another very significant fact: participation was just over 30%, the lowest figure of all votes taken after the fall of Hosni Mubarak. In presidential elections, almost half of the census usually exercise their right to vote. “A Constitution that is only supported by 20% of the census, compared with 80% who disagree or boycott it does not enjoy sufficient consensus to be legitimate,” says analyst Abdel Magid.

If there is one important result being obtained in this supposed legitimate, open referendum is that a strong minority is getting away with their agenda. A it happens in all democracies, a small portion of the Egyptian society is easily becoming the dominant party in the country; a party that will perhaps become the new ruling group to stay in power for many years to come and that will operate under the mandate of an even smaller group.

The opposition, formed mainly by secular parties, defied the process over the weekend. “We will continue fighting to bring down this Constitution through peaceful means,” proclaimed Amr Hamzawy, a rising political figure among liberals. The results of any of the five appointments to the polls since the fall of Mubarak have led politicians to seek consensus. On the horizon is already shaping the next battle: the legislative elections scheduled for within a couple of months.

But this referendum could serve to end the demonstrations of recent weeks, some of which led to pitched battles between Islamists and seculars that resulted in a dozen deaths. With its entry into force, the Constitution repealed the decree which granted almost absolute power to Mohamed Morsi, one of the origins of the current political crisis. Until the election of the new People’s Assembly, the legislature will pass from the hands of Morsi to the Senate, where various Islamist groups have a wide majority.

Broadly speaking, it can be concluded that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have had their way on the pulse with the opposition. If everything goes as planned, Egypt is on its way to becoming another theocracy, where the Muslim Brotherhood will have Sharia Law as its guide to rule over everyone in the country. In gone unchallenged, this type of Islamist radicalism runs the risk of becoming another source of western hating, government-sponsored terror state which will be a perfect excuse for military industrial complex forces to intervene and invade in the near future.

One of the possible lessons of the current constitutional battle is the confirmation that the Islamists are a strong social minority that has the ability and the potential to decide the fate of Egypt without the consent of an important part of society. Although Morsi had to return power he had unlawfully taken before, his temporary power grab worked as a distraction to confuse an important portion of the population that after rejecting the current process have left important decisions in the hands of Morsi’s supporters.

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Santa gets early to Egypt as U.S. gives Morsi’s Military 20 new F-16s

AP | DECEMBER 11, 2012

The Egyptian military on Monday assumed joint responsibility with the police for security and protecting state institutions until the results of a Dec. 15 constitutional referendum are announced.

The army took up the task in line with a decree issued Sunday by President Mohammed Morsi. The Islamist leader on Monday also suspended a series of tax hikes announced the previous day on alcohol, cigarettes and other items.

The presidential edict orders the military and police to jointly maintain security in the run-up to Saturday’s vote on the disputed charter, which was hurriedly approved last month by a panel dominated by the president’s Islamist allies despite a boycott of the committee’s liberal, secular and Christian members.

The decree also grants the military the right to arrest civilians, but presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said it was nowhere near a declaration of martial law.

“It is merely a measure to extend legal cover for the armed forces while they are used to maintain security,” Ali told The Associated Press.

There were no signs of a beefed up military presence outside the presidential palace, the site of fierce street clashes last week, or elsewhere in the capital on Monday.

Still, Morsi’s decision to lean on the military to safeguard the vote is widely seen as evidence of just how jittery the government is about the referendum on the draft constitution, which has been at the heart of days of dueling protests by the opposition and Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood backers. The two sides clashed in Cairo last week, leaving at least six people dead and hundreds wounded in the worst violence of the crisis.

Both the opposition and Morsi’s supporters have called for mass rallies on Tuesday.

The opposition has rejected the referendum, but has yet to call for a boycott or instead a “no” vote at the polls.

“A decision on whether we call for a boycott of the referendum or campaign for a `no’ vote remains under discussion,” Hossam Moanis, a spokesman for the National Salvation Front grouping opposition parties and groups told the AP on Monday. “For now, we reject the referendum as part of our rejection of the draft constitution.”

The military last week sent out several tanks and armored vehicles in the vicinity of the presidential palace in Cairo following protests there by tens of thousands of Morsi’s critics. It was the first high-profile deployment by the military since it handed power in June to Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president.

Morsi on Saturday rescinded decrees issued Nov. 22 granting him near absolute powers and placing him above any oversight, including by the courts. He has, however, insisted that the referendum will go ahead on schedule.

Judges have gone on strike to protest Morsi’s perceived “assault” on the judiciary and have said they would not oversee the Dec. 15 vote as is customary for judges in Egypt. Judges of the nation’s administrative courts announced Monday they were conditionally lifting their boycott of the vote, but they said their supervision of the process was conditional on bringing an end to the siege of the Supreme Constitutional Court by Morsi’s supporters.

In exchange for their supervision, they also demanded assurances that authorities would crack down on vote canvassing outside polling stations and offer life insurance policies to the judges.

Morsi’s deputy, Mahmoud Mekki, has said the vote could be staggered over several days if there were not enough judges to oversee the referendum.

The court was widely expected to dissolve the panel that drafted the constitution in a session scheduled for Dec. 2. The siege of the Nile-side building in Cairo’s Maadi district began Dec. 1.

In a surprise move, Morsi on Monday rescinded a series of decrees issued the previous day to raise taxes on a wide range of items and services, including alcohol, cigarettes, mobile phones, services offered by hotels and bank loans.

The state-owned daily Al-Ahram said the Sunday decrees to raise taxes were issued by Morsi. On Monday, the official MENA news agency carried a statement from Morsi’s office saying the president has decided to “suspend” the tax increases.

“The president does accept that citizens shoulder any additional burdens except by choice,” the statement said. Morsi, it added, has ordered a public debate on the increases to gauge popular reaction.

“The people will always have the loudest voice and final decision,” it added.

It was not immediately clear why Morsi changed his mind about the tax hikes in a matter of hours, but the about-face appeared to have more to do with inexperience rather than a bid by the president to appear sympathetic with the majority of Egyptians who struggle daily to make end meet as the economy’s woes deepen. A popular backlash against tax hikes could hurt the chances of the Morsi-backed draft constitution being ratified in the referendum.

Egypt and the IMF last month have reached an initial agreement for a $4.8 billion loan to revive the country’s ailing economy. The deal, agreed after nearly three weeks of negotiations in Cairo, will support the government’s economic program for 22 months, the IMF said in a statement.

Egyptian authorities said at the time that it intended to raise revenues through tax reform, using the resources generated from new taxes to boost social spending and investment in new infrastructure.

 

Why can Egyptians challenge their government but Americans can’t?

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | DECEMBER 10, 2012

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, today decided to cancel the controversial statement that shielded his powers against other government branches in his country as well as against justice. The new text says that if the new constitution is rejected in the referendum to be carried out on December 15, the president must choose a new Constituent Assembly in three months. The new constitutional declaration maintains the possibility of prosecuting those responsible for killings.

In a couple of weeks time, and after massive protests from a majority of Egyptians, Mohamed Morsi had to back down on his attempt to become the newest dictator, which he achieved by giving himself as much power as his predecessor had.

As announced in a press conference, the Islamist Mohamed Selim al Awa, who participated in a national dialogue meeting convened by Morsi, the president did not agree to postpone the referendum on the new constitution, so it will be held on 15 December as it was first set by Morsi himself.

The cancellation of the constitutional act was one of the demands of the opposition, along with the postponement of the plebiscite that finally was held as scheduled.

The commission, composed among others by al Awa and liberal politician Ayman Nur, drafted a new constitutional declaration that has been promulgated by Morsi that cancels the previous article imposed by Morsi back on November 21.

The constitutional change does not mention the controversial shield to Morsi’s powers that had been granted previously, or judicial immunity guaranteed to the Constituent Assembly and the Shura Council (upper house).

The new text says that if the new constitution is rejected in a referendum, the president must choose a new Constituent Assembly within three months of the vote, consisting of a hundred people and that must complete its work within a period not exceeding six months.

The new constitutional declaration maintains the ability to prosecute those responsible for the killings of protesters and civilians committed between January 25, 2011, when the so-called Arab Spring began  against Hosni Mubarak, and June 30, 2012, when Morsi took office.

The change declares itself constitutional himself while doing the same for all decrees issued since the fall of Mubarak.

As for the referendum, the Egyptian vice president, Mahmoud Meki, said in the press conference that there will be enough judges to oversee the consultation, after some groups of the judiciary announced that they will not participate in the monitoring.

The national dialogue, in which these decisions were made to give a solution to the political crisis in the country, was boycotted by the non-Islamist opposition, which is part of the “National Salvation Front”.

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Tahrir Square rumbles against the new Dictator

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 28, 2012

A new version of an Arab revolution seems to be brewing in Egypt. Right after the people thought a new beginning was right on the horizon, suddenly the new puppet in chief showed his teeth for the disappointment of many of those who helped elect him.

Tens of thousands of Egyptians protested on Tuesday and Wednesday against President Mohamed Morsi in one of the largest demonstrations since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, accusing the Islamist leader of seeking to impose a new autocracy. Police fired tear gas at stone-throwing youths in streets near Tahrir Square in Cairo, the center of the revolt that toppled Mubarak last year.

Clashes broke out between supporters and opponents of Morsi in a town north of Cairo. But violence could not overshadow the show of force which involves both opponents and supporters of the Islamists in power. The latest round of revolts is the biggest challenge for Morsi in his five months in office.

“The people want to topple the regime,” chanted the demonstrators, repeating phrases used in the uprising of 2011. There were also protests in Alexandria, Suez, Minya and Nile Delta cities. The protest organized by leftist groups, liberals and socialists marks an escalation in the worst crisis since the election last June, which exposes divisions inside the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood and its rivals.

A 52-year-old protester died after inhaling the gas, the second fatality since Morsi announced last week that he had expanded the decree powers to prevent legal challenges to any of his decisions. The Morsi Government has defended the decree as an effort to speed up reforms and complete the transition to democracy. Opponents accuse him of behaving like a modern pharaoh. United States, a great benefactor of the Egyptian army, has expressed concern, fearing more turmoil in a country that has a crucial peace treaty with Israel.

“We do not want a dictatorship again. Mubarak’s regime was a dictatorship. We’ve had a revolution to bring justice and freedom,” said Ahmed Husseini, 32. The split opposition groups composed by Egyptian Islamist not have joined in the streets, and have yet to build an electoral machine to challenge the well-organized Islamists.

“There are signs that in the last couple of days, Morsi and the Brothers have realized their mistake,” said Elijah Zarwan, a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, adding that the protests were “a clear illustration that this was a political miscalculation. ”

The Morsi measure provoked a rebellion among judges and knocked confidence in an economy struggling to recover from two years of turmoil. The president has yet to implement unpopular measures to contain the country’s crushing budget deficit, necessary to complete an agreement for a loan of 4,800 million from the International Monetary Fund.

Mursi Supporters and opponents clashed with stones and firebombs thrown some in the city of Mahalla el Kubra in the Nile Delta. Medical sources said that nearly 200 people were injured. “The main demand is the withdrawal of the constitutional declaration (the decree). This is the point,” said Amr Moussa, former Arab League chief and presidential candidate who joined the new opposition coalition called the National Salvation Front.

The group includes several leading liberal politicians. Some scholars of the prestigious al-Azhar Mosque and University joined the demonstrations on Tuesday, showing that Morsi and his supporters have alienated some more moderate Muslims. Members of the large minority of Egyptian Christians also joined.

In Washington, the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, urged protesters to behave peacefully. “The current situation is an internal  constitutional dispute in Egypt and can only be decided by the Egyptian people through democratic peaceful dialogue,” he told reporters. Human Rights Watch said that the text gives more power to Morsi of the military junta that is in control of the country. This new regime is supported by the western oppressors who helped take down their long-term puppet, Hosni Mubarak.

The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon told an Austrian newspaper that he encouraged Mursi to resolve the issue through dialogue. In an attempt to ease tensions with the judges who were outraged by his decree, Morsi said to the high court that the fragments of his decree on the immunity of their decisions will be implemented only on issues of importance regarding Egyptian “sovereignty”.

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