Special series

Egypt: The unfolding crisis

Two years after the revolution, the dramatic turns in the country raise questions about democracy and dictatorship.

Last Modified: 06 Sep 2013 08:09
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In this documentary, we analyse the two-and-a-half year story of the events that led to the ousting of a president after 30 years of autocratic rule, the first free and fair elections in Egypt's history, a new president elected and then deposed 13 months later, and a cycle of violence that has taken the country to the verge of civil war.

This story starts in December 2010, when mass protests in Tunisia led to the toppling of that country's president. Protesters demonstrating over high unemployment, food inflation, corruption and the denial of political freedoms, were met with brutal force at the hands of the police and security forces. But, after 28 days of continued resistance, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted after 23 years in power.

This televised revolution was watched across the Arab world and triggered a series of similar revolts by equally disaffected populations. It was the start of what would quickly become known as the 'Arab Spring'.

Egyptians for the first time have a real choice in terms of who they want to lead the country. In this election they’re voting for individuals and it’s the first time they’ve got the opportunity to actually decide the individual that they want to lead them ....

Mike Hanna, Al Jazeera correspondent ahead of Egypt's first free and fair election 

Inspired by the revolution in Tunisia, small networks of Egyptian activists geared up for mass action. They had been agitating against President Hosni Mubarak's autocratic rule for years, but they had never before attracted the kind of mass support that was manifested once Tunisia showed the people just what could be achieved.

Their demands were simple: political freedoms, an end to state corruption and a better quality of life for an impoverished population.

There were signs that a significant majority of the Egyptian people were growing increasingly frustrated, but could this spirit transcend the realm of social media and actually bring people out onto the streets? 

That question appeared to be answered on the morning of January 25, 2011, when Egyptians decided to start protest marches around the country, calling for greater freedoms and political change.

In Cairo, scuffles broke out with riot police. But the security forces Mubarak had always relied upon to quell popular protest gradually become less and less effective.

In February 2011, after weeks of protests, Mubarak stood down.

Egypt's military chiefs, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), headed by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi now ran the country. But, believing that they had fought hard to secure political change and driven by a determination to pick their own leader, the Egyptian people continued their protests. 

And, eventually, in May 2012, they went to the polls in the country's first free and fair elections. By mid-June a result was declared. Mohamed Morsi of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, had narrowly won with 51 percent of the vote.

But just 12 months into his presidency, on the first anniversary of the election, thousands of Morsi opponents gathered in cities across the country, demanding his resignation.

In response, Morsi's supporters set up a sit-in camp outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque. On July 1, as mass demonstrations continued, the army again played a crucial role. General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt's military chief, issued Morsi with a final ultimatum.

The army wanted to replace Morsi with an interim government, revise his constitution and call new elections within a year.

Morsi, however, remained defiant. In a dramatic speech, he pledged to defend his legitimacy and vowed not to step down. But, with many of the swing voters who narrowly tipped the election in his favour now deserting him, he relied almost entirely on the Muslim Brotherhood for support.

On July 3, the military delivered on its ultimatum. El-Sisi announced that Morsi had been deposed and replaced by Supreme Court Chief Justice Adly Mansour.

The Mansour government says it plans to call new elections within 12 months, but can stability be restored in a way that enables ordinary Egyptians to regain their hard-earned freedoms and to re-build their lives, their economy and a brighter future? 


Egypt: The unfolding crisis can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Thursday: 1130 and 2030, Friday: 1230 and 2230. 


Al Jazeera
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