To Morsi: 51% is not the majority

The streets won a small battle last night.  After a nine hour meeting between the government and some opposing parties, the constitutional decree was partially rescinded, meeting one of the demands on the street.

The draft constitution continues on its course, however, and will go to the polls on Saturday December 15, 2012.   Morsi has said many times that he was elected by majority, 51% in fact, and it is that majority he is banking on right now.

The numbers in perspective

In Egypt, 51% is not the majority.

Lets go back to May of this year, when we had our first presidential elections, and everyone was pumped about a democratic Egypt.  Based on a population of 92 million with a voter turnout of 28.7%, his initial 5.8 million votes was support from little more than  6% of the entire Egyptian population.  Even among voters he only had 24.7% of votes. In the run-off his 13,230,131 total vote count was the voice of only 14% of the population, but it’s the 51% of voters that Morsi is banking on.

What it really means is that 86% of the people of Egypt, me being one of them, did not give their voice to our current president.   Morsi came in to lead a country whose social, economic and political systems were in turmoil, and a people that didn’t really want or trust him or his band of brothers.   It was a recipe for disaster.

President Mohamed Morsi only got 24% of eligible votes in the first round. 76% of the voter population either refused to vote for him, or were not encouraged enough to go to the polls and give their voice to anyone.


Could have Morsi done it differently?

Nasser Amin, General Director of The Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession and an anti-Mubarak activist since 1988, gave me the answer to that question on February 16, 2012.  Amin focused his work on understanding transitional justice, preparing for the eventual removal of former President Hosni Mubarak in order to help ease Egypt into a democracy.

“Above anything else, transitional justice in any revolutionary country serves to calm the people and give them pride in the success of their fight and ease the pain of losing loved ones,” he said

Amin’s transitional justice plan was simple.   Create an independent, government-funded and fully transparent truth and fact finding commission to work on fact-finding pertaining to cases that address the issues on which the revolution was ignited (corruption, police brutality, government embezzlement etc.).  Use special courts to try crimes committed during and leading up to the revolution.  Appease the families of the martyrs through concessions and by building a memorial for them. Create a comission  And stop using force against protestors.

These steps intended to do one thing:  clear out the past, and usher in a new phase in Egyptian history.  They were simple , and did not require broad sweeping powers to the executive office.  Their success would do more than promote a single political power, it would build trust between a government and its people.

The Supreme Council of Armed Forces had ignored Amin’s suggestions, and dealt with the situation as if they were still in Mubarak’s Egypt.  The result was a divided country among enflamed parties.  He had hope that the next president would be someone who was a true believer in human rights and democracy.

Our president has disappointed us.  He’s dealt with political opposition in the same way as his predecessor, consolidated power to the executive office and broken most of his campaign promises (BBC:  Egypt: President Morsi’s 100 days in power).  More important, the Egyptian people are no closer to understanding the way our public institutions work, or what our specific rights and responsibilities are as citizens.   Instead, he’s given us a constitution that uses the same ambiguity as  its suspended version, and infringes on more rights. (BBC: Comparison of Egypt’s suspended and draft constitutions).

Nasser Amin put his final faith in the power of the streets:

“The revolutionary force is the base and it will be what changes Egypt.  This is the first time in Egypt’s history, from the days fo the Pharaohs  the decision is from the eyes of the street below, and not the eagle eye view of the high offices.  What is new is that the decisions come from the square and the streets and that egypt has a new force to make decisions that is very different from its traditional means.

Revolutions are not done by  88 million, they are done by half a million.   No one should worry, ever.”

Except maybe Morsi.


Nasser Amin on Ibrahim Eissa’s show Al-Tahrir titled:  “What happens after a revolution?” 


Morsi addresses HIS nation

After 24 hours of rage, anticipation, stress and anger our president, Dr. Mohamed Morsi, decided to finally address his nation.  It was a speech that invoked the Business Insider headline: Egyptian President Morsi Is Starting To Sound Disturbingly Like Ousted Dictator Mubarak.

Shortly after, my neighbor, who has a bird’s eye view of Merghany St. and the Executive Palace, sent out this tweet:

Social media went crazy, friends in various places around Cairo reported that once apathetic citizens were now up in arms.  From my living room it all felt just way too familiar.

From a media standpoint, here’s what Morsi did wrong:

1. Visual:

Feb. 2, 2011 Former President Hosni Mubarak attempts to regain the support of the people after deadly clashes break out in and around  Tahrir Square.


Dec. 6, 2012 – President Mohamed Morsi, in his first address to the nation since deadly clashes broke out in front of the Heliopolis based Executive Palace.









Images stick with people.  While they may not know how or why something looks familiar, their subconscious will trigger a very negative feeling.  By only changing the backdrop from blue (tranquility and peace) to red (anger and authority), President Morsi seems to be showing more force than his predecessor.

Not to mention, body language says it all.  The only hand gestures he used throughout his speech were choppy, indicating authority.   When he made eye contact, he was frowning, with the right side of his face angled down.  No reassurances there.

2. Language:

There seems to be an issue with the Arabic language in the Executive offices of the Middle East.   During the first six months of the Arab uprising, i was working with the investigative unit at the ABC News offices in New York City.   I was tasked with live translating all official speeches from Arab world , which was a serious challenge.   Mubarak continuously ignored grammatical laws and made up words.   At first, my insecurities allowed me to believe that it was my lack of language skills that made me unable to understand parts of the speech, but I quickly learned, it’s not me, it’s them.

Last night was no different.  I sat on my couch with friends that were born and raised in Egypt, and had an extremely strong grasp of the Arabic language. I kept geting confused, but was reassured when I saw they were equally flabbergasted.  Then, during the speech he spoke of article 6, and that his intention behind the article was to make clear and ”  أعنون “…    2o3anwen….

Wait… that’s not Arabic.. that’s Arab dictator speak for:  I’m so powerful I can make up my own language.

3. Tone:

Authority and power that is wielded with a voice that shouts often is another common trait between Egyptian dictators.  During his speech, just as with Mubarak’s last few addresses, his tone is a mix of angry baba when you come home late from curfew and angry professor when you forget to do your assignment.

This type of tone is noninclusive, and doesn’t open the mental door of participation and working together.   But, it does galvanize supporters and polarize people.

4.  Content

Perhaps President Morsi should be given a pass on all the visuals and underlying tones of a speech.  He didn’t have much to learn from and everyone is going through a learning process.  However, his use of the same vocabulary as his predecessor, and ignoring the opposoition in the same way will only serve to destroy any support he may have.

Here’s a couple places where he went wrong:

1.  Morsi: The violence started on Tuesday December 4.  I attended the protests on that day. I was intimidated at first by the numbers I knew would be standing right behind my house.  But, I got home from my office in Downtown in less than 20 minutes, parked my car in front of my house, attended almost two hours of the protest and came home without ever feeling frightened.  I was not harassed, there was no violence and the people seemed to be in generally good spirits, positive about their ability to participate in political protests.

The next day, however, I could cut the tension with a knife.  I couldn’t park in front of my building (which turned out to be a blessing in disguise), and feared for my safety in the 10 minute walk from my car to my building through MB territory.  Over 6 hours I watched a battle rage under my house.

2.  Morsi: Baltagiya (thugs) have turned peaceful protests violent, and they were paid to do it per their own confessions:  Right after the president’s speech Yosri Fouda hosted two females who had been taken by the Muslim Brotherhood on the night of Dec. 4.   Ola Shabah’s face was so badly bruised she couldn’t see out of her left eye, and Lena Mujahid, who had obviously sustained injuries to her face and body.   Both say they were immediately asked who they were working for and taken into questioning about their involvement with a paying force.  They didn’t have proof, they were creating proof.    Luckily both girls were saved.

The same tactic of divide by spreading fear in the streets was used by Mubarak.  It also serves to paint parts of the opposition as deserving of a swift and violent punishment, while allowing the dictator to appear open to the idea of dialogue.

3. Disregard protestors demands as incorrect, yet call for open dialogue.  Perhaps Morsi is more guilty of this than Mubarak.  Mubarak recognized that a force was against him, spoke about it and then called for dialogue.  Morsi, on the other hand, disregarded all of the demands, reaffirmed the decisions that brought people out to the streets in the first place and then asked for an open dialogue.

Egypt is in dire need of a leader that can unite its different layers and people to work together for better social, political and economic systems.   Last night’s speech was indicative of a president who is comfortable with his party’s approval, and apathetic about the country’s needs.  It was Mors’s address to HIS nation, not the Egyptians.

A link to a 14 minute excerpt of the speech:

Battle of Ahmed Wafik


1:30 pm yesterday I started to seriously worry.  I came across a post by the official Freedom and Justice Party’s Facebook page calling for a protest after the late afternoon prayers at the executive palace in my neighborhood, Heliopolis.

“لإخوان والقوى الشعبية تداعت للتظاهر أمام مقر الاتحادية عصر اليوم الأربعاء وذلك لحماية الشرعية بعد التعديات الغاشمة التي قامت بها فئة بالأمس تصورت أنها يمكن أن تهز الشرعية أو تفرض رأيها بالقوة مما دفع القوى الشعبية”

“The Brotherhood and the the people are now called to protest in front of the executive palace late afternoon today, Wednesday.  And this is to protect the governments legitimacy after the extreme show of force it (the opposition) showed yesterday.  This force believed it could shake our legitimacy or impose its opinion with whatever force necessary on the people.”

The post was shared 3,646 times, liked by 1,774 people and got 786 comments. The force they are speaking of was a protest held by the opposition the night before.   The people packed around the palace walls, chanting and spray painting the infamous words “2er7al.”  That day the energy was intense, and the people were angry, but no one was scared.

But, now there were MB supporters headed to the couple hundred that had stayed overnight in tents. I was glued to my twitter and Facebook feeds for the next four hours.  News reports said the Brotherhood supporters had broken up tents by force, and were beating up protestors.  I wanted to get home, to make sure that my street was safe.    The events were unfolding right around the corner from my house, and I didn’t want to be so late I wouldn’t be able to get into my neighborhood.

Finally, at 6 I headed out of the Downtown area to Roxy.  As soon as I approached the vicenity of my house coming from Khalifa Ma’moun, I realized that this was worse than what I was seeing on my feeds and on live television.  A young man was diverting traffic, forcing everyone to take a u-turn.  Us residents were allowed through, but were warned that it was getting ugly.

December 4, 2012: The Battle of Ahmed Wafik St.

Within one block another young man stopped me, this time insisting that it would be impossible to get through.  I tried to argue a bit, but realized that it would be best to park the car away from the house if the clashes were raging so close.

I maneuvered through back roads, in search of a parking space, and found myself at the corner of the Heliopolis Sporting Club across the street from my block, and the midst of tens of MB supporters.  They all yelled at me to turn around, but I had found a parking space and I just wanted to go home.

As soon as I parked my car I had tense, jumpy MB supporters gathered around me, asking me what I was doing and where i was going.  The energy was tense, distrusting and chaotic, all the makings of a really long and bloody night.

At the corner of my street, Ahmed Wafik and the main street of Khalifa Ma’moun the two sides were battling it out with stones, Molotov cocktails, firecrackers and laser beams.   Yellow partitions that once shielded a two year government project to fix the neighborhoods water (were now protecting the heads of fighters on both sides.

Morsi supporters advance towards the opposition on Khalifa Ma’moun street throwing rocks and using anything that isn’t firmly planted on the ground as shields.

From my window I could hear a boom coming from behind the Brotherhood supporters.  The first time it happened I stood confused, breathing heavily.   Then the back of my throat started to burn, the intensity rising up to my nose, then my eyes.  My sinuses were on fire, and I didn’t have vinegar or coke.  I quickly shut the window and closed my eyes, waiting for the pain of the tear gas to die down.

Still, I stood transfixed at my window, watching the ebb and flow of a battle happening on my street. I learned to close my window when I heard the two booms, and worried that the clashes would move into my little neighborhood.



President Morsi’s supporters make a run for it when tear gas canisters fall short and land in the midst of the advancing human wall.

Just as the MB supporters were gaining ground, using a human wall protected by the yellow partitions, two  of the tear gas canisters fell short.  The wall went crashing down and men ran in every direction, including my street.

Halfway down, right in front of my house a group stopped and realized they were retreating. They started breaking up the sidewalk and searching for anything they could make a weapon.

I immediately realized that not all my neighbors were as lucky with parking as I was.    I started shouting down “People’s cars!! You are ruining people’s cars!!”



Morsi supporters advance from the left side of my building, and start an ebb and flow that lasted for more than 4 hours.

At first they paused, looking up at the crazy lady who was more worried about cars then the fate of her country.  Then I was ignored completely.

To my left supporters were coming in from the outside street with trash cans filled with rocks and carrying the yellow partitions.

Men young and old ran up to the front lines, and threw as hard as they could to the opposition, and retreated quickly.  Every once in a while one man would snap back, the struck area pulling the rest of his body off balance.   He would grab his wounds and quickly run.



Protestors defend their hold on the entrance of Ahmed Wafik, while fighting off opposition fighters on the main street of Khalifa Ma’moun.

The stand off continued for more than four hours.  At one point brotherhood supporters were pushed to the very end of the street, but they made it back when the opposition eased its fire.

Despite the fall back, the protesters were able to build a wall out of the partitions.  They hid under it and threw stones and firecrackers down Ahmed Wafik.   Behind them their fellow fighters fought off the supporters coming in from Khalifa Ma’moun.

From my window, I watched for six hours, transfixed by what felt like the apocalypse unfolding in front of me.  I had no access to a television from there, and my internet was choppy at best.  So all I had to judge the situation on was what I saw in front of me.


Morsi supporters hide behind the kiosk to advance on protestors blocking the entrance to the main street of Khalifa Ma’moun.

At one point, I ran downstairs to check the security on my door, and to give water to anyone who needed it.  I was exhausted from just watching and couldn’t imagine what they were going through.  I opened the door to my building as supporters rushed the opposition.  One man ran up to me screaming “What are you doing??” I calmly told him I was locking the door and bringing people water.

His eyes dashed back and forth so quickly I couldn’t tell if he could hear me.   Suddenly he grabbed the water out of my hand, and ran down the street.  I took a deep breath and was hit with the stench of sweat, burning tires and dust.  I turned around to open my door, and a group of men came pleading to let me secure the street from my roof. “I can’t, I can’t” I said as I slipped in and shut the door quickly behind me and rushed back to my safe point at the window.


Clean up crews were quick to get rid of the stones covering my street the next morning. But some things, like the black stain of a Moltov cocktail, are not easily swept up.

I finally pried myself away from the window at half past midnight.  It had been an intense six hours, and it was getting to me.  I couldn’t imagine what life for Iraqis, Palestinians, Syrians and any other people in conflict was like. By 230 in the morning I had to force myself to shut off the television and try to get some sleep.

The next morning, I was met with a depressing site.  I felt like I had woken up in a war zone.  The streets were covered in broken stones, glass and dark marks where the Molotov cocktails had landed.   The clean up crew was already sweeping the street, but you couldn’t escape all the broken windshields and dents in my neighbor’s cars.

My neighbors were livid.    Political disagreements are a given in any country.  Misunderstandings in times of transition are unavoidable, this they knew.  But, while we don’t all agree on politics, we did come to one consensus: It is the basic responsibility of a president to keep his citizens safe, and President Mohamed Morsi did not do that.