BEIRUT

Editorial

Deja vu on the Nile

  • An Egyptian protester waves his national flag as he is surrounded by tear gas fired by riot police in Cairo’s Tahrir square on January 25, 2013. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMOUD KHALED)

Thousands of people took to the streets of Egypt Friday to mark the second anniversary of the popular uprising that toppled the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

Many were busy chanting “the people want the fall of the regime!” – not as a nostalgic trip down memory lane, but as an expression of deep disappointment with the “achievements” of the revolution of January 2011.

The new Egypt has become disappointingly reminiscent of the old regime, and in some cases things have only become worse.

Religious tensions still exist because of the cavalier way in which the Muslim Brotherhood-led government is pursuing its remaking of the country’s political system. Economic problems are nowhere near to abating, and everyone is aware of the tourism sector’s ongoing devastation and the less-than-encouraging climate for foreign investors. Incidents such as train accidents and building collapses, a feature of the bad old days, continue as if little has changed in the land of the Nile.

And the perennial complaints of corruption and monopolizing of power by the authorities are also features of today’s Egypt, under a new set of rulers.

The Muslim Brotherhood appears to believe it can dole out assistance and aid to the legions of Egypt’s poor and deprived to stem some of the discontent. But this means the party is forgetting, whether intentionally or unintentionally, that it is now in power. Its officials have a responsibility to act as rulers under the law, and not an opposition that waits in the wings and takes advantage of government neglect to enhance its status with the public.

The problem is that there is no accountability or transparency with such acts of largesse by the Muslim Brotherhood – the Egyptian people clearly expect their rulers to help them, but not at the expense of the principles that protesters were championing back at the beginning of 2011.

In short, the two-year anniversary of Tahrir Square should be an occasion for President Mohammad Mursi to seriously rethink what has transpired.

He should recognize that the Muslim Brotherhood was never at the vanguard of the popular uprising; instead, it reaped the benefits of popular anger that was expressed by a range of other political and civic groups.

Mursi should re-assess how he and his team have behaved when it comes to Egypt’s Constitution, its laws, and the high-level appointments to the bureaucracy and other state institutions.

Without a change of course, Mursi’s policies will only continue to reflect extremism and a disregard for the opinions of others. According to one report, Egypt’s new president has seen four times as many lawsuits for “insulting the president” during his first 200 days in office than under the entire 30 years of Mubarak’s rule.

In other countries the anniversary of a successful national uprising is an occasion for joy, but in Egypt, it’s as if January 2011 never even happened.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 26, 2013, on page 7.
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