It is ironic in many ways that 2013 begins much like 2012 did, on the heels of violence and political meanderings by the Muslim Brotherhood and the now-opposition as all talk in Egypt is on the economy and parliament. Elections for a new lower house of parliament, which was disbanded by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces last year ahead of a presidential election, has many in the country questioning the future of democracy and whether multiple voices can be heard.
Ask Hamdy, a political science graduate and now working as a restaurant manager in the upscale Cairo neighborhood of Zamalek, who believes that the Brotherhood and its president Mohamed Mursi have taken too much control of the country and its destiny. But in a change from the past status quo, he believes that Mursi is “too weak” to get anything done.
“We know that the Brotherhood and its leaders are the ones making the decisions. Mursi is not able to do what he wants to better this country. That is why I am scared for Egypt and its future,” he told me early morning over the weekend.
For him, and others who spoke little about the Cabinet shift, which saw the ministers of environment, interior and a few other minor spots switched around, they wonder if it will help their own personal economic status. Hamdy and other “average” Egyptians I have spoken with over the past few days talked about how the Brotherhood is strangling the country and using their positions of power to push Egypt in a specific direction.
This is as true as can be. The Brotherhood, coming off a referendum victory that saw a controversial constitution pushed through in December, is using this Cabinet shuffle as gamesmanship and a political campaign tool ahead of parliamentary elections to take place in the first quarter of 2013. They are telling the country that they are “listening” and making changes for the betterment of the country.
But the reality is that they are again preying on the ill-informed public, which is fed misinformation after misinformation on the country’s state-run television – run by the Brotherhood. Add to this the ongoing fear the Brotherhood has of potentially losing the lower house and they are already beginning to lay claim to the need to keep them in power if Egypt is to return to the perceived economic and political glory of years past.
It is sad that the Brotherhood, and by consent Mursi, is using their position as the most organized political force in the country to create a country that is becoming very much like the Egypt of Hosni Mubarak, where the ruling National Democratic Party (NFP) and its cronies ruled over the country, citing democratic reform, change and economic progress as the best mode of governance for a struggling country.
The Egyptian population is tired. They are frustrated by the ongoing sit-ins in Tahrir Square – now in their second month – and the protests by the presidential palace. They are tired of facing price hikes, pending tax increases and stagnant salaries. Women in the country are facing their worst setbacks in decades as the Brotherhood and their Salafist counterparts who wrote the constitution aim to strip away their freedoms. The Christian minority also fears for their future as potential second-class citizens. All in all, 2013 has started with as much uncertainty for the country as it has since the January 2011 uprising ousted their longtime dictator.
The question now is whether the Brotherhood will continue to pander to the masses, delivering promise after promise that has yet to be met. Or will the opposition groups, who have gained much publicity over the past few months in attempting to compromise and open a national dialogue on the future of Egypt, be able to finally, after two years of failures, come together and create a unified opposition capable of doing battle with the Brotherhood at the polls.
For Hamdy and others, this is what it is coming down to. A struggle for power in the face of the Brotherhoo's attempts to be the most omnipotent force. Egypt’s future will not be a promising one if the Brotherhood and its Cabinet shuffle is just more lip service to the needs and desires of the population.
Joseph Mayton is Editor-in-chief of Bikyanews.com, a global south news website based in Cairo, Egypt. He is also a regular columnist for al-Arabiya. His work has been featured in many international publications and he focuses on politics, human rights, women’s rights, LGBT issues and the environment. Twitter: @jmayton