CAIRO -- The Egypt that’s emerged in the week since President Mohammed Morsi was toppled from power looks much as it did in the period just after the uprising in 2011 that led to the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak.
Appointees in the new government are nearly all proponents of military intervention. The new prime minister named Wednesday, Hazem el Beblawi, served as the minister of finance in the first military government after Mubarak’s fall. The Muslim Brotherhood, the secretive organization that helped Morsi ascend to power, once again is isolated from the political process, just as it was under Mubarak and in the first months after his ouster.
And old problems are back. Divisions permeate the political landscape, and Christians, who make up 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have suffered several notable attacks, allegedly by Islamists, as the government proves incapable of protecting them even as it warns of the dangers of terrorism.
Still unanswered, in a country where most of the population at least publicly seems to support the military’s overthrow of Morsi, is whether people will go back to the basic acceptance of government corruption and incompetence that prevailed through the Mubarak years. Analysts and those who advocated Mubarak’s fall think that after removing two presidents through massive popular movements, the public’s tolerance for bad government is likely to be low, a challenge for Egypt’s current rulers.
The military must “present some reforms to placate the angry people and to integrate the Islamists in some way,” said Ashraf el Sherif, a professor of politics at the American University in Cairo. “The challenge is to make an alliance of all sectors and introduce some kind of reforms in a way that will not introduce instability.”
For the so-called revolutionaries who led the uprising against Mubarak, the broad support for the military’s move against Morsi is frustrating. While they, too, wanted Morsi out, they’re wondering in the aftermath whether anyone recalls that the anti-Mubarak uprising was intended to bring about democracy and such social reforms as the end of corruption and police brutality.
Morsi’s final weeks made it clear that those revolutionary dreams hadn’t really flourished under his government or the military government that ruled for nearly 18 months between Mubarak’s fall and Morsi’s inauguration. With the economy flailing, Morsi’s administration arrested activists who opposed him, and manipulated new laws and a new constitution to its favor.
“We can say that the January 2011 revolution was not a revolution,” el Sherif said. What’s taking place now, he said, could be described “as the second road map of the counterrevolution.” The first was the military government before Morsi’s election.
Ola Shahba, a political activist who took part in the anti-Mubarak and anti-Morsi demonstrations, wasn’t so glum. She said there was a big difference between the Egypt of 2011 and the Egypt of today.
“It’s not 2011, because many more people are speaking out. There is real public pressure,” she said.
But will that pressure continue, now that many of the worst physical indications of Morsi’s incompetence – the lack of electricity and the long lines for gasoline – are gone? “That is something we have to wait to see,” she said.