The lifting of Egypt’s three-month state of emergency and night-time curfew on Nov. 12 has revived fears of violence and lawlessness, but has relieved those concerned with the state of the economy.
Nabil Zowayed, an Egyptian security specialist, told Al Arabiya News that he is “now more concerned than ever about the country’s safety.”
He added: “The fear is that people from different political parties will go back to the streets like they used to. Anti-coup alliance demonstrators in particular could return to areas such as Tahrir and Mohandessine to protest. As we saw before, these protests frequently descended into violent clashes and tensions.”
The interim government is working on a law that will severely restrict the right to demonstrate, saying it fears potential unrest triggered by the lifting of the curfew.
The law is set to require organizers to get a permit before holding any gathering, and will fine or jail violators, reported the Egyptian news website al-Ahram.
Economists seem more optimistic, as some blamed the curfew for hurting businesses and diminishing trade in the capital.
“All the turbulence that hit Egypt, added to this curfew that was imposed in August, has had a negative impact on the economy, especially small businesses,” Alya al-Mahdi, professor of economics at Cairo University, told Al Arabiya News.
“In seven or eight months - after the referendum on the new constitution, and both parliamentary and presidential elections - I believe that the economy will improve even more,” Mahdi added.
It is Egypt’s “informal economy” that appears to be the most likely benefactor, as most of its revenue is based on night-time commerce.
Restaurant owner Saber Mohammad told Al Arabiya News: “Customers will gradually come back to the streets... Business will start working like it used to, I’m sure.”
The multitude of fruit and vegetable vendors, shisha cafes and neighborhood eateries, which are a major part of Egypt’s economy, have been affected by the nightly shutdown.
“Before, on a normal night, I could make at least $7, but under the curfew, these past three months I barely made $2 a night,” Saber said.
The state of emergency and the curfew, which were imposed after security forces stormed Raba’a al-Adawiya and al-Nahda squares - where supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi were holding sit-ins - had been due to last a month, but the interim government extended them on Sept. 12.
The state of emergency granted broad powers to the authorities, as they were allowed to make arrests without warrants and search people’s homes.
The curfew hours had been reduced several times since August.