June 30 marks the first anniversary of the presidency of Muhammad Mursi in Egypt. It also will mark what opposition parties are referring to as the “tamarrod,” massive demonstrations demanding new presidential elections. The opposition claims to have collected 15 million signatures demanding that Mursi step down for his efforts to transform Egypt into a Muslim state, all the while stifling dissent and civil society.
A recent example was his appointment this week of a member of al-Gamaa al-Islamiya as governor of Luxor. In 1997, Gamaa al-Islamiya gunmen killed 58 foreign tourists there. Violent protests against the appointment swept Luxor in the last few days. Mursi’s tourism minister resigned and the newly appointed governor announced that he would resign.
Frequent demonstrations and riots have occurred throughout the last year. Protesters frequently attacked Muslim Brotherhood offices. More recently, demonstrators have begun attacking police stations.
The official web site of the Muslim Brotherhood, www.ikhwanweb.com, refers to the protesters as “ousted regime holdovers enlisting the aid of thugs and criminals.” But the demonstrators, whoever they are, have very widespread support throughout society – from al Nour, demanding faster Islamization, to secular and liberal parties demanding a halt to the decimation of civil society to Egypt’s Coptic Christians, some 10 to 20 percent of the population, demanding a halt to Egypt’s Islamization.
As a result of the turmoil, Egypt’s economy is in crisis. Foreign investment and tourism revenues have nearly disappeared. Foreign exchange reserves have fallen by 60 percent. Inflation has risen and food prices have jumped, providing new hardships for the people, who spend an average of 50 percent of their incomes on foodstuffs.
According to the London-based firm, Capital Economics, Egypt’s budget deficit has risen to 14 percent of GDP. Meanwhile, the country has been unable to meet IMF demands for more robust reforms, holding up a $4.8 billion loan.
Mursi was elected by a minority of eligible voters and since then, his popularity has plunged. According to a James Zogby poll, only 28 percent of Egyptians support him, virtually all are members of his Muslim Brotherhood party.
But the opposition to Mursi is split among tens of political parties and no single opposition figure rises to the level of national support.
The only institutions still respected by Egyptians are the armed forces and the judiciary. The military is certainly far from intervening in what it sees as a potential quagmire.
All of this is a formula for extreme political instability. There is every reason to believe that instability is far from its peak. Violence and decline are Egypt’s immediate future.
Marvin Zonis is Professor Emeritus, Booth School of Business, The University of Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.