3 Jul 2013

The final hours in Cairo 2.0

The whole nation is on tenterhooks again – the next few hours crucial.

Four hours to deadline. Ish. There is some disagreement about exactly when the army deadline is. But it is imminent.

I arrived this morning in the early hours and am looking out onto Tahrir Square as I write this. In the last few days it has filled up later on in the evening when people finish work. And while it isn’t anywhere near full right now the crowd is clearly growing before me. And getting louder.

The threat of violence on the streets tonight is real. There were some casualties last night – it could be much worse within hours if things get out of control. If Morsi is removed from power one way or another both his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood and allies in the Islamist Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya could take to the streets.

All the rhetoric, on all sides, is about people being prepared to lay down their lives.

Reuters: supporters of President Morsi shout slogans during a protest

The crowds seem even bigger than they were in 2011 at times. Who are they? Many are those revolutionaries who opposed the Muslim Brotherhood all along and do not want an Islamist government in power. On top of that there are those who voted for Morsi in the 2012 election but only because he was better than the alternative Shafik, who had loyally served Mubarak before. They are angry that he failed to be the revolutionary he promised to be, failing to deliver real change and ruling in an effective coalition with the army.

And there are those who are struggling in an economic mess, who are angry at fuel shortages and rising prices and who thought a revolution would make their lives better. Democracy involves broken promises, shady compromise and dashed expectations – who knew?

This afternoon the army seems to have three choices after President Morsi rebuffed their ultimatum last night insisting he will give his life before stepping down. They either back down (which is unlikely), or stage an old fashioned coup and seize power (which they don’t want to appear to do) or they effectively do the same in a softer way and remove Morsi’s power.

A sort of “presidential palace arrest” is being talked about, in which he is surrounded and cut off. The roadmap would lead to some sort of civilian ruling council, with opposition figures, technocratic or statesmanlike figures and probably an Islamist they can do business with. The Nour Party are the second biggest Islamist group and no fans of military coups but they have just backed early elections too. The whole nation is on tenterhooks again – the next few hours crucial.

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