An Egyptian protester in Tahrir Square on Monday, July 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Egypt is bracing for June 30. Anticipation for the first anniversary of the inauguration of President Mohammed Morsi has reached a fever pitch, as millions prepare to take to the streets to demand his removal from office. Fears of a showdown between protesters and the president’s supporters have led people to stock up on food and fuel supplies. The military and police are deploying extra forces and barriers around public buildings and army tanks have reportedly taken up positions outside the capital.
One year ago, many Egyptians had hoped the inauguration of the country’s first-ever democratically elected president would mark a turning point following decades of autocratic rule and a turbulent transition. Yet since Morsi took office, the political quagmire has only deepened, the economy has been in decline and daily life has become harder for most Egyptians.
The country is plagued by frequent fuel and diesel shortages that create long lines outside gas stations and cause incapacitating traffic jams. Electricity blackouts have become a daily routine during the hot summer months. Prices for food, medicine and other staple goods have sharply risen as the Egyptian pound has lost 10 percent of its value leaving already impoverished families less to live on. Unemployment is growing, tourism and investment are down sharply, the stock market hit an eleven-month low last week, while insecurity, crime and vigilante violence are on the rise.
“The economy is in the garbage, everything is more expensive,” says Ahmed El-Noubi, a 58-year-old shop owner in the working-class district of Sayeda Zainab. “After a year of the Muslim Brotherhood, people cannot tolerate them. The street opposition is reawakening.”
The frustration is palpable. During Morsi’s first year in office, Egypt witnessed over 9,400 demonstrations, according to a report published by the Cairo-based International Development Centre, more than anywhere in the world. The anti-government sentiment will culminate in mass protests on June 30, anticipation for which has built exponentially through a grassroots initiative that has collected millions of signatures on a petition whose slogan is a call for revolt: Tamarod, Arabic for “rebel.”
The campaign was started by a group of young organizers affiliated with the Kefaya opposition movement, founded in 2005 to call for political reform under Mubarak. Its goal was simple: to draft a petition declaring a vote of no confidence in the president and to call for early presidential elections. Written in the everyday colloquial Arabic of the street, the document addresses the president directly. “Because security still isn’t back,” it reads, “we don’t want you.… Because the poor still have no place, we don’t want you. Because the economy has collapsed and is based on begging [from abroad], we don’t want you.”
Since it was launched in Tahrir Square on May 1, the campaign has gained momentum, with volunteers handing out copies on the street, on university campuses, in shops, even in government offices. By the end of May, organizers said they gathered seven million signatures through a largely decentralized volunteer network that spread throughout Egypt’s provinces. They now claim to have hit their target of 15 million signatures, surpassing the 13 million votes that elected Morsi a year ago in a runoff against Ahmed Shafik, a stalwart of the former regime.