If you’ve heard of “Tamarod,” Egypt’s increasingly popular oppositional petition against the presidency, then you may know about “Tagarod” – a recently launched rival campaign.
The competing campaign is still considered a fresh start-up, but its popularity has skyrocketed, with supporters championing the country’s Islamist President Mohammad Mursi.
Its high vote counts may even be proving a challenge to Tamarod.
Tamarod literally translates to “rebellion,” but defining the meaning of Tagarod is a tad trickier, said Egyptian journalist and blogger Nervana Mahmoud.
“Some translate Tagarod as impartiality, while others claim it is self-abnegation or self-sacrifice in support of ‘legitimacy,’” Mahmoud wrote earlier this week.
Either way, says Mahmoud, the name and its meaning are insignificant.
“In reality, it is a tit-for-tat move to counter the Tamarod (Rebel) campaign that was started by a youth group opposed to President Mursi’s presidency last April.”
Sparked by Tamarod, which has collected more than 22 million signatures in support of Mursi’s ouster, opposition parties in Egypt recently formed a coalition planning nationwide rallies on June 30.
The date marks the first anniversary of Mursi’s inauguration.
Since the Islamist president took office, he has battled the judiciary, media and police. The economy has taken a tumble, investment has dried up, inflation has soared and the vital tourism industry has been battered.
Mursi, a senior Muslim Brotherhood leader, is Egypt’s first president elected in a free vote, catapulted to power by the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that ended three decades of Hosni Mubark’s dictatorial rule.
“Our petition has gathered 22,134,465 signatures,” Tamarod spokesman Mahmoud Badr told journalists on Saturday.
But despite Tamarod’s popularity, the rival campaign appears to have quickly caught up – and is now in the lead.
On June 30, Tagarod spokesman Ahmed Hosni told Al Arabiya English that the campaign had gathered about 26 million signatures in support of Mursi, marking the rival campaign’s success.
Has Tagarod won?
“June 30 is a successful day for Tagarod as it prevented millions of people from taking to the streets and protesting,” Hosni said.
“Protests lead to violence and unrest. Real change comes through the ballot box, not through mass protests. Egyptians had elected Mursi as president and approved the constitution drafted.
“The constitution stipulates that the elected president stays on for four years to see through his duty. That is what Tagarod is supporting,” Hosni said.
“The ballot is the only way Egyptian voices can be respected,” Hosni added.
Tagarod was launched in a conference held on May 12, when Assem Abdel Maged – the founder of the campaign – asked Mursi supporters to sign a petition to keep the “legitimately elected president in his post.”
Soon after, images were taken by global news agencies of Mursi supporters signing the Tagarod campaign, mainly near mosques.
Abdel Maged is a member of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, a group that is still recognized as a terrorist organization in Europe and the United States.
“They (al-Gamaa al-Islamiya) believe the president of the state should be the Guardian of Islam (Wali-al-Amr), which is in simple terms, the legitimate leader chosen by Muslims to rule the nation of Islam under the terms of conduct outlined by Islamic Sharia,” explained Mahmoud.
“Therefore, in their eyes, President Mursi (an Islamist) elected by the majority of Egyptians is a legitimate Wali-al-Amr, and should not be challenged until the end of his ‘Islamic contract.’ This is, in their opinion, the 4-year term of his office as a president.”
But Hosni has rejected claims which affiliate the campaign with Islamism. “This is not an Islamist campaign. Our support consists of all Egyptians, of different religions and backgrounds,” said Hosni, as protesters – both President Mursi’s supporters and opponents - gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Sunday.
“We want those who oppose and support Mursi to sign our campaign, because the way to resolve conflicts in our country is not through mass protests,” he added.
Hosni said his campaign will continue collecting signatures until July 20.
“We have representatives across the country that can reach everyone through our social media presence,” he added.
But despite Tamarod winning the race, garnering the highest number of signatures, opposition protests are expected to linger.
On Sunday, protesters gathering in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square chanted: “The people want the ouster of the regime,” the signature slogan of the 2011 revolt that ousted Hosni Mubarak and brought Mursi to power.