17 May 2013

Egypt: Anti-President Campaign Stirs Up Mixed Reactions

Cairo — The recent "Tamarrud" (Arabic for " Rebel") campaign that aims to pressurize Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi to call for an early presidential election has stirred up mixed reactions in the country.

The campaign targets the collection of 15 million anti-Morsi signatures by the end June 30, which marks one year of Morsi's coming into office, to outnumber the 13.2 millions who voted for him last year.

Launched in early May, the campaign has collected over two million signatures and got the support from the main opposition bloc -- the National Salvation Front, the prominent revolutionary April 6 Youth Movement, the Nasserite Popular Current and others.

"Protests as a means of change are no longer fruitful in Egypt, " said Mohamed Aziz, a leading "Rebel" campaign member.

"The constitution says that the people are the only source for all authorities," Aziz said, arguing that the campaign adopts legal and democratic procedures to withdraw confidence from the president.

The campaign urges citizens to join massive demonstrations on June 30 outside the presidential palace to express their lack of trust in Morsi and demand an early presidential election.

"I, the undersigned, as a member of the National Assembly of the Egyptian people, hereby announce that I withdraw confidence from President Mohamed Morsi and I call for holding early presidential election," the campaign application form states.

"In Cairo alone, we collected 800,000 signatures while the largest part came from the Suez Canal governorates," Aziz said, referring to Suez, Port Said and Ismailia.

The high turnout in a few days raised concerns of Islamists, Morsi's main supporters, who in response started a counter- campaign called "Tagarrud" (Arabic for "Impartiality").

Launched by the ultra-conservative Islamic group Al-Gamaa al- Islamiya, the "Impartiality" campaign aims to collect signatures of Morsi's supporters. "The campaign ... refers to impartiality and putting aside our differences and grudges for the sake of the country," Assem Abdel-Maged, a leading campaign member, told Xinhua.

However, Aziz sees no real significance of "Impartiality" in the street, describing the Islamist initiative as "a false copy of our original product."

CAMPAIGN'S LEGALITY DISPUTED

The lately launched campaigns to either support or oppose Morsi have raised concerns of the ordinary citizens, who had became annoyed by the continuous political instability.

The signatures have legal bases, according to the people's legitimacy to choose their own leader, Aziz said, arguing that if 15 million signatures were collected, they would file a lawsuit against Morsi's illegitimacy.

However, Muslim Brotherhood (MB) lawyer for north and east Cairo, Mamdouh Ahmed, said the campaign has no legal or constitutional basis.

"It is a new method of the opposition's constant attempts to mobilize people against Morsi and the Islamic project," Mamdouh told Xinhua, adding that such campaigns would fail like demonstrations, namely "Salvation protests" and others, which were initiated to shake the president's rule.

"The balloting box is the only legal judge," he said.

But if the issue is brought to a referendum and the result comes with 51 percent against the president, then it will be legal to call for an early presidential election.

NARROW HOPE FOR OPPOSITION

The MB's popularity has been negatively affected due to the Islamic-ruling administration's poor performance to meet the people aspirations and demands after the 2011 upheaval, which, some observers say, would drag down their chances in the coming parliamentary elections.

But the reality is that the MB is still the most organized faction.

Ahmed Bann, political researcher at Nile Center for Political Studies, said the new approach of the opposition is just "a political teenage" and a show of "lack of real tools."

Other emerging parties and movements will all take long time to crystallize their appearance and creditability in the street, said Bann.

"Practically wise, the 'Rebel' campaign is like leaps in the air that couldn't penetrate the legal frames," he said.

The opposition, instead of resorting to such campaigns, should make good coalitions to build a big bloc for the parliamentary elections, and present better alternatives to win the people's votes, Bann added.

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