In January 2011, when Egypt’s political landscape was marred by widespread distrust in President Hosni Mubarak’s regime the citizens of Egypt took to the streets with zeal for new hope and better governance. Protests were bolstered by the involvement of youth and there was a unanimous demand for transfer of power. Today, in 2014 young secular Eqyptians voicing opinions against the military are languishing in jails at the mercy of a coup which once enjoyed their outright support.
On August 2012, When President Mohammed Morsi appointed Gen Sisi as general commander of Egypt’s armed forces and defence minister; it was seen as an attempt to reclaim political power from the military, which had seized control after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted. However, Gen Sisi publicly warned Mr Morsi of another army intervention if the government failed to respond to “the will of the people.” Following on from that date, Mr Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood assumed power as the head of state until its first anniversary marked with show of extreme discontentment by different factions of the society. This time round the army issued an ultimatum to Mr Morsi, instructing him to respond to people’s demands or step down within 48 hours. When he failed to do so, it removed him from power and placed him under house arrest. The army appointed an interim civilian leader in Gen Sisi and issued a roadmap leading to fresh elections. This was viewed by anti-Morsi protesters as the saviour of democracy, rather than the perpetrators of a coup.
It was announced that Mr Morsi and more than 30 others in the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership were to stand trial for “conspiring with foreign organisations to commit terrorist acts”, with prosecutors alleging that Mr Morsi formed an alliance with the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Mr Morsi is also facing fraud charges in connection with the Muslim Brotherhood’s economic and social programme for Egypt’s recovery, called Renaissance (al-Nahda). Separately, Mr Morsi is facing a third trial relating into his escape from jail during the 2011 uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak
The military intervention was not well received by many who had to bear the brunt of their atrocities in the turbulent period following Mr Mubarak’s ouster. Women were subjected to brutal virginity tests under false claims of safety measures. In order to appease the masses Gen Sisi released statements stressing the importance of ensuring social equality.
On 3 July, Gen al-Sisi, known to enjoy “strong ties with US officials on both diplomatic and military levels”, suspended Egypt’s constitution and called for new elections. He was backed by liberal opposition forces and the main religious leaders. Known to be a religious man, Gen Sisi has enjoyed perpetual support from religious bodies across the nation. Mr ElBaradei, a former Morsi loyalist and coordinator of the main alliance of liberal parties known as the National Salvation Front, was appointed interim vice-president with responsibility for foreign affairs as a means to win his consent. Tamarod, a new group that organised nationwide protests against Mr. Morsi, gave the president an ultimatum to resign or face an open-ended campaign of civil disobedience and it was also backed by the army.
Under the military’s pressure a referendum was held on January 14th, 2014 to draft a new constitution and pave the way for another general election. The terms of the new constitution provide for a President to be elected for a maximum of 2 terms of four years each. The defence minister, however, would continue to be from the military.
A respectable 38% turnout at the referendum was a tell-tale sign of people’s disgruntlement with constant violence and instability in their country. Egypt’s weary public is fearful, having learned through three years of turmoil how protests can evolve into weeks-long cycles of violence. Clearly, the participants in the referendum mainly included Gen Sisi’s supporters. While Morsi’s supporters boycotted it, a large proportion of the country’s youth refrained from voting as well. Such discrepancies reflect not only the hardening of a dangerous polarization between Islamists and their foes, but widespread dissatisfaction among Egypt’s youth. Harsh prison sentences have recently been served on youths for such crimes as illegal assembly and vandalism. Prosecutors recently slapped travel bans on a score of people, pending charges against them for “insulting the judiciary”. A number of journalists remain in prison under vague charges of “falsifying information” and news channels that broadcast a different point of view from the military coups’ are banned. All steps are taken to keep the once elected President from garnering the support of his countrymen or even the ability to explain his stance and in return question his people’s impressionable minds.