When Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi stepped to the podium on Thursday evening, many hours after he had said he would speak to the nation, all of Egypt went silent. Then he began to speak and slowly, voices in cafes and restaurants began to increase in volume. In Tahrir Square and by the presidential palace, protesters began chanting “leave, leave” and “void, void.”
Mursi said very little on Thursday, offering what most political leaders – the pundits ironically saw it as a concession and potential for compromise – believed were empty offerings in a speech riddled with inaccuracies. The father-like nature of the delivery was a reminder to the speeches an aging dictator in Hosni Mubarak delivered during the 2011 uprising that failed to change the Egyptian people’s want for change.
On Thursday, Mursi sadly had little to offer the country. He employed language eerily similar to the ousted dictator, one has to wonder if the Brotherhood have any advisors living in reality today on what is happening on the street.
Mursi talked of criminals, but it was clear he was referring to those who opposed his push toward absolute power. He then argued that a third party was responsible for the violence, not his own Muslim Brotherhood supporters who so violently and brutally attacked fellow Egyptian citizens on Wednesday.
“I call for a full, productive dialogue with all figures and heads of parties, revolutionary youth and senior legal figures to meet this Saturday,” Mursi said in the televised address on Thursday, saying the meeting would be at his official palace, now guarded by Republican Guards.
Mubarak also called for dialogue, and like Mursi, blamed violence on imaginary foes, foreigners and called for the end of criminal activity.
Mursi’s advisors should be ashamed. It is clear that they have not listened. That they do not understand the very people they are supposed to represent. Instead they must believe it is their right to be president.
The most dangerous aspect of the speech I found was the argument that the minority must allow the majority to rule, ostensibly oppress – for if there are no minority rights, then the majority must have the power to do as they please. From a democratically elected leader, many of whom on the street today cast a ballot for Mursi, misreads the country’s sentiments.
Mursi and the Brotherhood continue to believe they are the majority, but this is simply not true. It wasn’t true at the ballot box – when Mursi won one-quarter of votes in the first round election and non-Islamists won the vast majority – and it is not true on the street. These bullying tactics that were used by Mursi in his speech will not win over any undecided viewers. This was a speech to his base, but that very base has attacked his opponents, leaving a question mark over what it means.
As we look forward to a Friday that will be full of mass protests against Mursi, his government and his Brotherhood, one line stood out that symbolizes how similar the speech was to those Mubarak attempts to maintain his power:
“The ex-regime used thugs and rigged elections … such methods will never be used in Egypt ever again.”
This blatant lie was not lost on Egyptians. Walking through the streets of downtown Cairo after the speech, “lie” was the word heard most by average Egyptians, not those protesting at the palace or in Tahrir, but regular Egyptains who will not stand for dictatorship.
When we look back on this speech, in many ways it will be the half-hour that nailed the coffin closed. There is no coming back from this. Mubarak-style speeches that blame others for one’s own failings are a thing of the past in Egypt.
Pundits and political commentators can argue day and night that Mursi is offering a way out of the impasse. The reality is that Egyptians are fed up with the lies, and know the true way out is Mursi relinquishing power and giving the people a chance for a better future.
How many more lies will Egyptians be forced to listen to? The Brotherhood told the country one year ago they would not put forward a presidential candidate. Today, a defiant speech that blames his opponents, the deaths of Egyptians, and a political crisis that sees hundreds of thousands on the streets has resulted. Egyptians have had enough of dictatorship. They want Mursi out.
(Joseph Mayton is Editor-in-chief of the Egypt-based Bikyamasr.com and contributes regularly to Al Arabiya English. Twitter @jmayton)