The largest popular protests in Egypt since the January 25 Revolution of 2011, which ousted Hosni Mubarak, exploded on Sunday. Millions of Egyptians poured into the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and smaller cities across the country in protest of the Muslim Brotherhood's rule over the country, picking June 30th to mark the one-year anniversary of Mohamed Morsi's election to the Egyptian presidency. A nascent political organization named Tamarod has served as the catalyst for the protests. Members of the organization fanned out across the country over the past two months and, as reported by the Egyptian Independent, they claim to have accumulated over 22 million signatures calling for Morsi to resign from the presidency.
The reasons for the protests are myriad, but the Muslim Brotherhood's unwillingness to cooperate with other political actors is perhaps the most significant. Marwan Bishara, author of The Invisible Arab, writing for Al Jazeera English, suggests that the decision on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice political party to "govern alone without soliciting support from the wider political spectrum," is at the core of the opposition's grievances. Since Morsi's election a year ago, his administration and party have gradually stripped away what semblance of democracy existed in the fledgling government.
But millions of people don't normally fill the streets over mere political bullying. It is what the Muslim Brotherhood has done with the power they have been given, economically and socially, that has brought so many members of Egypt's normally sedentary "couch party" into the streets. As Nation Institute Fellow Sharif Abdel Kouddous writes in the Nation, "The country is plagued by frequent fuel and diesel shortages... Unemployment is growing, tourism and investment are down sharply, the stock market hit an eleven-month low last week, while insecurity, crime and vigilante violence are now on the rise." In short, despite Morsi's lofty campaign promises, the previously untested leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood has proven disastrous on nearly every front.
See Kouddous in the Democracy Now! interview below: "Millions Protesting Morsi Show Egyptian Revolution Still Going Strong"
The Muslim Brotherhood has sought to portray this discontent as the hidden hand of some external foe. Kouddous quotes a press statement from Hussein Ibrahim, the secretary general of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, who said, "Certain power-seeking parties spend billions on hired thugs in order to push this homeland into anarchy, chaos and lawlessness, with flimsy political cover." It appears that the organization, which under Hosni Mubarak claimed for so long to have its finger on the pulse of the nation, is now as disconnected from the realities facing Egyptians as its predecessor. As the Brotherhood flails in search of external specters to blame for the protests, they will be confronted with their own demons of shortage, inflation and skyrocketing unemployment.
The Egyptian military, as is nearly always the case along the Nile, will play a decisive role in what might be a second Egyptian revolution. On Monday the military issued a statement, which "call[ed] that the demands of the people be met and gives [all parties] 48 hours, as a last chance, to take responsibility for the historic circumstances the country is going through." While Morsi's office rebuked the ultimatum, the military helicopters flying over Tahrir Square with Egyptian flags in tow indicate that the military, just as they did nearly two and a half years ago, may be siding with the Egyptian people. Nothing is certain. As Bishara notes, "It's also unclear how the military is intending to interfere when Egyptians fill up the streets and public squares, and President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood show no sign of stepping down or aside."
So as the military deadline draws closer, tensions continue to rise in Egypt. Mohamed Morsi has clearly lost the support of the people who elected him only one year ago. Is this indicative of an imminent military takeover? Or perhaps of a popular revolution? Nation Books author and scholar Richard Falk seems hopeful: