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Egypt Divided Over Friday 24th Protests

It's less than two months since Mohamed Morsi took office in Egypt, yet a group of protesters took to the streets today to demand he step down; the activists called for the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood and for his dismissal. One of the leaders of the protest and former parliamentary member Mohamed Abu Hamed has accused the Brotherhood in press statements of being "an illegal group which is trying to build a state within a state."

The second organizer, Tawfiq Okasha, former chairman of the now banned Faraeen TV station, has been charged with "incitement to murder" Mohamed Morsi and faces trial on the 1st September. This is not the first time that the new President has stirred controversy over his ethics with the media; freedom of expression was one of the key demands of the revolution yet many people fear that he is trying to silence his opposition.  

On Thursday, Islam Afifi, editor of the private newspaper al-Dostour, was remanded in custody until his trial on the 16th September. He will be charged with publishing material offensive to the President and encouraging sectarian friction. The trial is a chilling reminder of 2008 when former editor in chief Ibrahim Eissa, of the very same newspaper spent two months in prison for speculating about the President (then Mubarak's) health, and was later fired.  

Many in Egypt feel little has been done about the domestic issues that featured prominently in the revolution, health issues, poverty, or the judicial system for example. Yet they are faced with a fierce dilemma, for despite holding reservations about Mori's Presidency, to demand his removal in a protest this Friday contradicts democratic principles. He was fairly elected.  

Several people also fear the ulterior motives of those taking part in the demonstration, a doubt that pre-empts a return to the old system. Mohamed Abu Hamed is said to have connections to Mubarak's regime and Tawfiq Okasha is at once an opponent of the Brotherhood and a supporter of the military. Many groups, including the 6th April Movement, boycotted the demonstrations.  

Haytham Mohamadeen, member of the Revolutionary Socialist Movement's political office, said to the Daily News Egypt, "we will not allow the old regime's figures to manipulate us, even if it were for the sake of standing against the Muslim Brotherhood movement."  

It is also important to look at what Morsi has done, rather than just at what he hasn't. Whilst domestic issues were the most important criteria of the revolution, a more independent foreign policy for Egypt was also high on the list. In fact Egypt's cosy relationship with the United States and Israel, in spite of the Palestinian question, has long fuelled resentment amongst the Arab community, a resentment that was strengthened throughout Mubarak's time where he fostered a close relationship with the two countries.

Fears in Washington that this connection would be lost were at first made stronger when the Muslim Brotherhood were elected, and then eased when the United States looked set to maintain close ties with long term allies Defence Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff Sami Hafez Anan, both in a position of authority.

But now they are gone after a security blunder where masked gunmen killed sixteen soldiers in Sinai on August the 5th led to their dismissal. At least through this action, Morsi has proven that Egypt stand a good chance of having an independent government that acts on behalf of its people.  

It is perhaps for these reasons that today Tahrir Square in Egypt was not filled with the millions of protesters that ousted Hosni Mubarak, but instead 2,000 people across the country. The people that were there threw sticks and stones, whilst small episodes of violence broke out in Ismailaya. But not enough were convinced that this was the right course of action. As Sabr Salah told Reuters, "We can vote him out again next time."

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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