Has Morsi saved or stolen Egypt’s revolution?

Recent decrees allowing the president to assume sweeping powers have divided opinion in the country’s capital.

President Morsi's decree, placing his decisions above legal challenge, sparked new protests in Tahrir Square [Reuters]

Cairo, Egypt –
Following days of upheaval after President Mohamed Morsi took the decision to sack the general prosecutor and assign himself power over the legislative and executive branches, many Egyptians are re-assessing the success of last year’s revolution.
Down a dusty street in Sayda Zeinab, one of Cairo’s many working class neighbourhoods, Mohammad Abdel-Hamid and Emam Mohammad Emam both agreed that Morsi’s recent decrees were necessary measures which needed to be taken to cleanse the country of the remnants of the old regime.

Emam Mohammad Emam: ‘No-one would accept this …
beyond a temporary phase” [Nour Samaha/Al Jazeera]

“These decisions are good for a temporary period in order to save the goals of the revolution,” said Emam, a 50-year-old factory worker. “Currently we’re in a situation where things are still working for the benefit of the old regime in order to get Ahmad Shafiq into power.”
“The problem is that people are looking at it from a very specific point of view, which is creating distrust between people and decision-makers,” he continued, adding that he had placed his complete trust in the belief that Morsi was only acting in the best interest of the country.
Abdel-Hamid agreed, explaining that the decisions Morsi had executed were in line with the goals of the revolution. “There are still too many people who are trying to disrupt the country, so he needed to do this to get the country on the right track,” he said.
“Of course, no-one would accept this if it moves beyond a temporary phase.”
While they disagreed whether the changes introduced since Morsi assumed the presidency have benefited them, Abdel-Hamid was keen to point out that fundamental changes take time to take effect.
“One must withstand the situation for a little while to allow a good man to cleanse the country and fix it,” he said.
Calling for mass protests
The Egyptian opposition has called for mass protests on Tuesday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demonstrate against Morsi’s constitutional declarations, and the sweeping powers he has assumed.
Morsi’s allies within the Muslim Brotherhood have called for a counter-protest, to show their support for the president.
Both protests are expected to take place within a few hundred metres of each other.
Abdel-Hamid is determined to attend the demonstration in Tahrir Square, in support of Morsi, as they “should be allowed in Tahrir as well”.
“I’m not Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “Neither is Morsi, in my opinion. He represents Egypt.”
Yet for Gharam Ibrahim, a 20-year-old resident of Sayda Zeinab who cleans other people’s houses for a living, life has become harder since Morsi came to power.
“For poor people like us, it has gotten worse; it has become more expensive, there is no work, you just can’t live,” she told Al Jazeera. “I was with the revolution; my brother was shot in that time.”

Gharam Ibrahim voted for Morsi.
“Now? I regret it”
[Nour Samaha/Al Jazeera]

During the presidential elections, she voted for Morsi, optimistic he would improve their standard of living. “Now? I regret it.”
She attended protests held by the opposition on Friday, and she will be attending the protests in support of the opposition on Tuesday.
“What Morsi is doing now is for the benefit of his people, his group, not us,” she said. “All he’s been doing is sitting on his chair doing nothing.”
Hijacking the revolution?
In Al-Azhar, a lower-middle-class neighbourhood where businesses suffered during the 2011 uprising, Gamal Hassan, a 58-year-old car salesman, had no doubt Morsi had “hijacked” the revolution.
While he did not fully support the revolution when it began, largely due to the rumours being propagated by the state at the time, he admitted that “overall, the revolution was a good thing as we got freedom. But, freedom is something sensitive”.
“However, thanks to Morsi and his gang, they have stolen the revolution,” Hassan said. “They have now created a state within a state … they are taking advice and counsel from people who have come straight from prison. What do these people know?”
One of the more contentious issues for Egyptians is the way in which Morsi dealt with the sacking of the general prosecutor, Abdel-Maguib Mahmoud. Hassan maintained that Mahmoud deserved to be sacked, but the methods adopted by Morsi to do so went against the purpose of the revolution. “What Morsi did was a direct interference in judicial matters.”
Across the Nile in Muhendeseen, an upper-middle-class neighbourhood, many felt uneasy about Egypt’s future under Morsi.
Ali Zinabedine, a technological support manager, said he accurately predicted the situation would turn as it has after Morsi first won the presidency.

Gamal Hassan says “freedom is something sensitive”
[Nour Samaha/Al Jazeera]

“We have a system for a reason,” he said, annoyed over the manner in which Morsi had taken matters into his own hands. “Today he issues these decrees. Tomorrow he will make us stop walking on the street. This is not how it should be.”
“I feel like we’ve been misled,” said Zinabedine. While he supports those now standing against Morsi, he will not take part in Tuesday’s planned protests, because “now is not the time nor is it the answer to be on the streets anymore”.
Hoda Ahmad, a 21-year-old student at Cairo University, was against the revolution since it began in January 2011.
“He has hijacked the revolution,” she said. “The situation now is in a state of failure.”
“I never thought he would adopt the Muslim Brotherhood system, but he has. I’m worried he won’t leave after four years, and he’s now put our external relations in a shaky position … he could drag us into a war.”
Yet Morsi supporters remain convinced that their president is doing the best he can with the means available.
“Don’t forget that removing the prosecutor general was one of the main demands of the revolution,” said Ahmad Gheith, a student member of the Muslim Brotherhood. “So Morsi has succeeded in finally doing this.”
The revolution was an exceptional period for Egypt and its people, he said, therefore “some decisions, not all, must be [allowed as an] exception to achieve the rest of the demands of the revolution”.
But Gheith is also well aware of the fact that not all promises made by Morsi have been delivered upon. “The responsibility of changing the old system is much bigger than what was expected,” he said. “But this takes time … we have waited 30 years under Mubarak, we can wait a couple of months.”
Convinced by Morsi’s words that the decisions taken are temporary measures, Gheith understood why others may be concerned. “People like me within the Freedom and Justice Party have known Morsi for a long time, so we trust him,” he said.
“But others should trust him as well; he took his decision on the constitutional declaration in order to finish the constitution quickly. If he wanted to stay longer, he would not have done so.”

Follow Nour Samaha on Twitter: @Nour_Samaha

Source: Al Jazeera