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Last week’s decree made by Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi brought Egyptians back to the streets. The decree, that has six articles, states that declarations, laws and decrees, made by Morsi during his presidency, cannot be appealed, suspended nor cancelled, until a constitution is drafted and the parliament elected. Neither can any judicial body annul them.
Following the announcement of the new decree the Egyptians have been extremely divided: People pro-Morsi agree that the decision he made was the only way to get rid of the remaining parts of the old Mubarak regime, while those against Morsi’s latest venture predicts another dictatorship, with the Muslim Brotherhood setting the agenda, if the new president gets away with implementing this new decree. Adding to this the constitution was put into vote Thursday, 29 November 2012 in spite of the fact that a significant number of non-Islamic representatives had left the constituent assembly after been called back to rethink their decision Wednesday evening, meaning that no Leftists, Liberals or Christians were left to vote.
Judging from what can be witnessed in Cairo these days – with a vast number of Egyptians occupying Tahrir Square, protesting against the current political actions by the president and the Muslim Brotherhood, who is seen as his close ally – a second revolution could be imminent. However, looking back at the economical situation of Egypt the last two years, following the 25 January revolution that had former president Hosni Mubarak step down, it is inevitable to ask: Can Egypt afford a second revolution?
It cannot be denied that Egypt’s economy has been struggling, especially since the revolution, which among other things has led to an IMF loan. According to the Egyptian newspaper, Al Ahram Online’s English version, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) reports that the poverty rate is rising, thus has increased from 21.6 % in year 2008/2009 to 25.5 % in year 2010/2011: With 69% of the population in rural areas living under the poverty line, of which Assiut Governorate in Upper Egypt has the highest poverty rate nationwide. The difference in the amount of money, annually spend on expenses between the poorest part of the population and the richest, is 17.500 LE ($2864).
On an individual level the aftermath of the revolution has resulted in income lost, as one woman from the Shubra suburb in Cairo says in a research interview conducted in relation to my MA thesis: “In the beginning I was with the revolution [the 25 January revolution] and I was very happy because of it, but really, after some time my husband’s business was very bad, because he is related to tourism, so we sold everything; I sold my gold, we sold our car, the business, really, we faced big problems, so I hated it, really, in the end of it.”
And she is not alone. Several of the 45 people interviewed for the research express that they have been affected economically one way or the other as a consequence of the revolution.
Thus regardless of the sympathy one feel with the Egyptians right now camping in the sit-in at Tahrir square, keeping up their fight for democracy, it is hard not to sit back with the question: Can Egypt afford a second revolution? At the same time it must be remembered that during the January 25 revolution the demands were: ‘Bread, Freedom and Social Justice’, which nonetheless implies that the uprising witnessed was not just an opposition to the Mubarak regime, but a resistance towards the entire system applied by Mubarak and his regime. From such a perspective the current reaction is not surprising, since yet the people neither got their bread, freedom nor social Justice. On the other hand, the risk of another two years in transition, with sceptical tourists agencies, worried investors and migrating youth is unendurable and leaves Egypt’s future with very challenged future prospects.
Planned demonstrations among liberals and leftists will Saturday take place in Tahrir, which was initially intended opposed by president Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters with a million-man counterdemonstration, however Thursday night it has been announced that the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies will move their demonstration to a different location to “protect Egypt’s national interests against division and conflict”.
The Egyptians are anticipated to return to the streets in big numbers the coming days, continuing their battle for bread, freedom and social justice, hopefully it will not end with a second revolution.