Egypt has been rocked by five days of rioting that has killed at least 52 people, and the violence has only spread since the country's Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, declared a state of emergency and imposed an overnight curfew. Morsi's political opponents, still fuming over how he rammed through a constitution written by his Islamist allies, rejected his call for a national dialogue to end the demonstrations, which erupted after a court sentenced 21 people to death for involvement in a deadly soccer riot in Port Said last year. On Tuesday, the head of the country's armed forces, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, warned that the chaos would lead to the "collapse of the state" unless Egypt's rival political factions could agree to work together.
The turmoil began just as the country was marking the second anniversary of the uprising that eventually toppled the regime of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. Is a revolution now going to sweep aside Morsi, too?
This violence definitely represents the "greatest popular challenge" Morsi has faced, says Ashraf Khalil at TIME. "The first martyrs in the January 2011 revolt against Hosni Mubarak" were from the same three cities on the Suez Canal — Port Said, Suez, and Ismailia — that started this latest wave of protests. "Their blood fed a nationwide cry for vengeance," and the longer the turmoil continues this time around, the greater the possibility that it will mushroom into something Morsi can't handle. Khalil continues:
Morsi is not Hosni Mubarak. He was elected, albeit by a slim margin, and his main political support — the Muslim Brotherhood — has had the ability to marshal enough votes in national referendums to continue to claim at least a shaky popular mandate. But soon Morsi may not have the luxury of appearing in firm civilian control without calling upon the military. The police have officially lost control of Port Said, and its residents and those of other canal cities seem determined to force further confrontations with Morsi’s government. And the harsher Morsi reacts, the more he will be compared to the President that came before him. That is a parallel he does not want. [TIME]
Well, there's no need for Morsi to pack his bags any time soon, according to DinEzzat at Egypt's Al-Ahram. The president "remains confident that he has the indispensable support of Washington and the Egyptian armed forces — largely if not fully."
Still, Morsi has made some major missteps, according to Juan Cole at Informed Comment. The biggest may have been invoking the emergency law of 1981. Egyptians had only recently forced their military and elites to revoke the law. "Some Egyptians fear that invoking emergency laws risks returning to dictatorship," so naturally they're angry. Morsi himself called the emergency law, which curtails civil liberties, dictatorial before he was elected last summer.
And the recent violence has certainly looked, at times, "like a slow-motion repeat of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak two years ago: the marches, the gas, the shouted demands to topple the regime," says The Economist. Morsi's "miscalculated response" was also familiar. "The riots have revealed worrying signs of a state that is both absent and untrusted by the people. Two years of transition and seven months of Brotherhood administration have failed to restore a sense of accountability." Protesters want Morsi to go. The opposition, however, is threatening to boycott elections unless Morsi meets some of their demands concerning a future political transition. How will this end? For now, The Economist says, "who will lead Egypt out of its current crisis is unclear."
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