Egypt: two years after Mubarak, the protest continues

Still poor, same slogans, same hunger for 'bread and justice'

11 February, 18:24

(ANSAmed) - CAIRO, FEBRUARY 11 - Two years after the ousting of Hosni Mubarak and six months since Egypt's first democratically elected president took office, the democratic transition is still in trouble and the same slogans once shouted at the 30-year dictator are now being hurled at the Muslim Brotherhood's president, Mohamed Morsi. ''Bread, liberty and social justice'' was the demand that rose from Tahrir Square in 2011, and the same chorus still rises from demonstrations on the revolution's second anniversary.

These are the latest in a long series of protests that first targeted the military council, then the Muslim Brotherhood and their spiritual guide, Mohamed Badie, whom many say is the country's real president.

The latest clashes, which left more than 60 people dead, occurred in various cities, especially in Port Said, which has now become symbolic of a new Egyptian revolt. After Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protests has now become the Ittahadeya presidential palace. The two years since February 11, 2011, have seen a barrage of unprecedented events in this country: its first free parliamentary elections, its first president culled from a clandestine movement that had been outlawed for decades, the military entrusted with transitional power then handing that power over to a newly elected head of state, and a new constitution approved by popular referendum.

These steps might point to a more democratic Egypt on paper, but on the ground they have polarized the country more and more, pitting secular liberals against Islamics, who are themselves further divided between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and Salafists. The latter, while they are the second largest force in parliament, have been excluded from the cabinet. Albeit united under the National Salvation Front umbrella, liberal forces are struggling to come up with an effective party line, and have failed to become a vehicle for the growing rage on the street.

A call for non-violence from the well-respected Al-Azhar religious authorities has failed miserably, a measure of the distance between the political ivory tower and the dynamics of the street, where previously unknown formations such as the Black Bloc are cropping up. More and more, the grassroots accuse the powers that be of perpetuating Mubarak's apparatus of repression, and of standing by while gang sexual assaults on women protesters have become a daily occurrence. An ongoing economic crisis adds fuel to the fire of political divisions: the latest data shows inflation has risen by 6.6% since January 2012, while fast-diminishing foreign currency reserves can cover just the next three months of imports as the Egyptian lira continues tanking. This spells trouble for Egypt, a country that is the world's number one grain importer and which feeds millions of its citizens with subsidized bread. To ensure bread prices stay at 1980s levels, the state this year will spend an estimated 16 billion Egyptian lire (approximately 2 billion euros).

In another turn of the screw, current instability has slowed down concession of a multi-billion-euro loan from the International Monetary Fund, a further economic and political setback for the fledgling democracy on the Nile. (ANSAmed).

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