In Egypt, many complain but don’t protest

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Politics is all very well, reckons Zeeka, but it doesn’t sell tomatoes and it doesn’t pay the rent.

“It’s nothing to do with me,” said the 23-year-old vegetable seller, in an eerily quiet downtown Cairo. “I’m the tomato guy.”

He was one of millions of Egyptians on Sunday who were not joining in mass protests against President Mohammed Mursi and who cursed factional rivalry for making it harder to make a living.

“I won’t go out on any protest,” he said as demonstrations got under way in central Cairo. “If we vote for one guy he won’t feed us. If we vote for the other guy he won’t feed us either.”

For Mohamed Ghareeb, another small businessman struggling to make ends meet, political squabbling since the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak two years ago was making things worse.

“We object to both sides,” he said in his small cafe down an alleyway as he poured Turkish coffee for customers devouring an Egyptian breakfast of stewed beans and falafel.

“They are both fighting for power and not thinking of the good of the people,” said Ghareeb, 28. Two and half years ago, he was out on Tahrir Square nearby to help topple Hosni Mubarak. Now, he said, the revolution was being lost in selfishness.

He voted for Mursi in last year’s presidential run-off -against a Mubarak-era general - and was disappointed. But the answer was not to dump the Islamist after a year in office.

“I don’t like Mursi but I love my country and stability in my country,” he said. “If he falls, we will go back to fighting again and the situation will be worse than it is now.”

At the pharmacy along the street, pharmacist Hamdi Mahmoud, 33, was also worried about more unrest: “We’re all suffering,” he said. “But I think one year is not enough to judge Mursi.”

Liberal leaders are banking on millions fed up with the economy to help push Mursi out. They have been angered by the U.S. ambassador, who said protests were bad for an economy crippled by unrest that has scared off tourists and investors.

Vegetable vendor Zeeka, who gave only his nickname, said he too feared more violence: more trouble means less work for a man who reckons that since the revolution his daily income has more than halved, to $6. His monthly rent had nearly doubled, to $70.

“What is happening now in Egypt is shameful. Prices are on the rise. There is no work. Thugs are everywhere,” he said, showing a scar on his arm from a recent beating.

Political feuding was just not helping: “We are with neither one nor the other,” said Zeeka. “We are the vegetable people.”

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