Bad news from the land of the pharaohs –again. Marsi is in big trouble.
The streets of Cairo are filled with rioters as the nation is once more plunged into crisis. All signs point to continuing instability and that President Mohamed Morsi may be struggling to remain in office.
Following an explosive confrontation at a soccer match, 28 people were killed and at least 300 were wounded. In turn, a judge sentenced 21 soccer fans to death for their role in the deadly riot. His decision set off rioting. The families and supporters of the 21 defendants poured into the streets screaming and shouting while demanding their release. Police responded with tear gas. The riots exploded with new intensity and the war was on.
Americans find it difficult to understand how confrontations at a sports event could lead to larger numbers of people being killed. However, the trouble makers were hard-core fans called ultras. The ultras are known for having an appetite for violence with opposing teams and the police. In recent days the Cairo ultras had staged a number of disruptive protests. At one point they shut down the subway system and even threatened the Egyptian stock exchange. Apparently, the ultra group smuggled knives and weapons into the stadium. The ultras were primed and ready for a confrontation. They got it.
Initially, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to blame the uprising on Mubarak loyalists and the interior ministry. Some even sought to accuse the military council that had ruled Egypt at one time. However, none of these charge stuck and prosecutors charged the 21 Port Said fans with starting the attack against their Cairo opponents. The violent response sparked a much larger fire.
On the anniversary of Egypt’s revolution, mobs exploded in an angry backlash against President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Against the backdrop of a worsening economy, the Brotherhood and their opponents squared off in a new upheaval that amounted to a call for Morsi’s resignation. Rallies turned into clashes near Tahir Square and the presidential palace. The count of injured persons continues to rise that has now surpassed 370 with 74 deaths reported. Rioting crosses the entire country.
Once it was obvious that the demonstrations were completely out of control and the police weren’t able to hold back the mobs, President Morsi spoke to the nation and demanded a retreat and curfew. However, his hard statements did not control the crowd. Finally, Morsi had to turn to the military to take control of the streets.
Several conclusions now become obvious. The military is back in the picture and Morsi can not survive without them. The opposition to the Moslem Brotherhood remains strong and active in a country already fatigued by two years of political turmoil. While Morsi appeared to be gaining control, he now has had severe set backs that question his leadership. The six months he has been in office have been marred by some of the worst crises since the overthrow of Mubarak. Deep political divisions are far from over. The continuing riots demonstrate Egypt remains in serious disarray.
The new question is whether Morsi can survive.