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The Daily Star
FRIDAY, 18 APR 2014
09:31 PM Beirut time
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Editorial
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Mursi plays Mubarak
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The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, under the presidency of Mohammad Mursi, is busy turning the “Arab Spring” into a fall, or winter, whichever expression one prefers, or even an outright Arab nightmare.

After one comes up with the appropriate metaphor, there remains the fact that Mursi made a number of inspiring promises for his first 100 days in power but after his 200-day milestone, the country is moving decisively backward, and not forward.

Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood have proven that their earlier promises and pledges were a bunch of hot air; they have been incompetent in guiding Egypt through a difficult transition period, and their mistakes – which many have highlighted during Mursi’s six-month presidency – are now reaping deadly results.

On Sunday, after a spate of violence in two major cities in the east, on the Suez Canal, Mursi chose to double down, as they say.

Instead of being forward-looking and having a vision for Egypt’s political, social and economic future, by offering some type of salvation plan in coordination with leading political movements and figures, the president took to the airwaves to issue threats.

Mursi instituted curfews and a state of emergency in the three major cities on the Canal, showing a total disregard for the idea of actually listening to the people, and addressing why they are angry.

It was as if Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood team around him could find nothing better to do than take a page from the Syrian playbook on how to deal with mass anger: Shoot first, and ask questions, maybe, later.

The dangerous events in Egypt were topped by the party’s threat to set up militias to protect itself, which raises the question about the role of the huge army and police force. Do the ruling authorities have that little confidence in this massive number of security personnel? Do they trust anyone but themselves to govern? Does the rest of Egyptian society pose that big of a threat to their grip on power?

Instead of learning from the mistakes that have been committed in other countries in the region, the Egyptian authorities relied on the same old methods, such as demonizing the opposition as outlaws, terrorists or remnants of the old regime.

The outbreak of violence in Suez and Port Said was preceded by demonstrations in Cairo on the second anniversary of the toppling of Hosni Mubarak. But the Brotherhood is reminding everyone of the bad old days, when it opts to use repression and crackdowns to deal with public grievances. It’s no surprise that some people chanted, “Mursi equals Mubarak.”

In short, the “revolution” of January 2011 is steadily proving to have resulted in a coup by an authoritarian group, and it is taking the country to the abyss. The Suez canal generates several billion dollars a year for the economy; if the violence escalates and threatens the smooth navigation of the canal by international shipping, spreads elsewhere, or further stunts the Egyptian economy, it will be another nail in the coffin of the rule by Mursi and his party’s depressingly familiar methods.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 28, 2013, on page 7.
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