Has Morsi created a ticking timebomb in Egypt?
7DAYS’ Myra Philp visits Egypt, where she finds citizens desperately hoping their new president will fulfill his promises...
The new president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, promised to change six things in his first 100 days of office to show his people that their country can be a better place.
Even those who did not vote for the new president are pinning their hopes on him meeting his October 8 deadline to restore law and order, stamp out chaos on Egypt’s roads, end the fuel shortage, make bread affordable, tackle litter and sanitation problems and start rebuilding the tourism industry.
It’s a lofty goal and may well have been promised in a desperate last-minute bid by the Muslim Brotherhood candidate to win more votes against his opponent Ahmed Shafiq, who served with the former Hosni Mubarak regime.
However, many post-revolution voters are hopeful he can deliver. Deep in the Nile Delta - the agricultural expanse that surrounds the River Nile on its way between the cities of Alexandria and Cairo - the majority of people voted for Shafiq.
However, there is grudging support for Morsi. One 30-year-old, who works part-time for the government in the small village of Dahtoura, near Zifta, said: “I did not want Morsi. Everybody here is worried because they voted for Shafiq and the Brotherhood knows that but he promised six things in 100 days and these things will be good for Egypt.
“Everybody is full of hope.”
Fulfilling his promise would be no small feat for Morsi. Citizens lived under a Mubarak-declared state of emergency for decades giving the police and army limitless powers. Now people believe that freedom from a dictatorship means they can do as they please. Everywhere there are signs of lawlessness. People desperate to buy fuel get into brawls and sword fights on forecourts.
Muggings are common and the police do not respond. Murders and rapes have become run-of-the-mill. People drive the wrong way up the country’s main motorways - the Agricultural Road and the Desert Road - which stretch for hundreds of kilometres.
Finding fuel is a daily challenge and the price of bread and meat has rocketed, often making it unaffordable. Rubbish is often thrown out of windows, sucked into the compressed mud streets. In one town, a dispute over the price of car tyres escalated into violence and the owner of the garage was shot.
In Alexandria, the preferred holiday destination for Egyptians, streets are full of craterous potholes and litter.
With many Egyptians not taking a vacation because of the escalating cost of living, the streets of Alexandria are not as busy as they should be at this time of year.
The street peddlers - who have been selling fake designer watches, sunglasses, toys and even nuts along the Corniche’s pavement coffee shops for decades - are feeling the pinch. The child beggars, who sell tissues or chewing gum, have found they have more competition for donations these days with a parade of fake cripples in wheelchairs and women with ‘sick’ babies touting for cash from whatever tourists there are.
Some beggars are performing daredevil stunts and others resort to street entertainment, like fire-eating, to try to win their share of available donations.
One street seller said: “There are too many people trying to sell now. They think they can make a living. But people are not spending.”
A senior officer from the secret police, who
sat and watched the miserable spectacle on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea in Alexandria, said: “Hosni Mubarak was a statesman. He kept the peace and the streets were safe. Mohammed Morsi is a political child in comparison.”
He added: “Maybe in 100 days they will be back in Tahir Square.”