Editorial: Violence that bodes ill for Egypt's future

 

Share
Related Topics

It is no revelation to say that regime change is often messy, whether the impetus comes from outside, as in Iraq, or from within, as in Egypt. Blowing the lid off a seething cauldron only exposes the myriad currents competing beneath. To count on a calm and uncontested transition in such circumstances is foolhardy.

But Egypt's transition has unleashed violence in unexpected places. The football pitch, which elsewhere has allowed opposing factions to play out their hostility by non-lethal means, has become something of a war zone in itself. At Port Said last February, more than 70 people were killed in a riot following a match between the home team, al-Masry, and al-Ahly from Cairo. And last week, when a Cairo court sentenced all 21 defendants to death for their role in that violence, to whoops of joy from the courtroom, the rioters simply picked up where they left off. In Port Said more than 30 people were reported killed, including two footballers; the prison was stormed and the state security building set on fire. Yesterday's funerals brought more violence.

Egypt's new rulers have shown a particular knack for poor timing. The sentences in the Port Said riot case were handed down just the day after Egypt had marked two years since the fall of Hosni Mubarak – an occasion bound to exacerbate the country's divisions. That anniversary brought protests, some violent, in many Egyptian cities, where people expressed their dissatisfaction with President Morsi and with each other. By yesterday, there were seven dead and more than 400 injured nationwide. The potential for the different protests – the football and the politics – to fuse to malign effect should have been clear for all to see.

The timing of the sentences was not the authorities' only misstep. They had already precipitated needless uncertainty by annulling the first trial of the former President and calling a new one. With Mr Mubarak old and ill – so ill last time around that he was brought to the courtroom on his hospital bed – it is hard to conceive of any decision less likely to quell political passions and promote the spirit of common purpose that Egypt so badly needs. And this was after President Morsi had inflicted a blow to his own, and Egypt's, interests by seizing the power to overrule the country's judiciary. At home and abroad, this false move almost eclipsed his achievement in brokering the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza.

Such confused signals and outright mistakes can be put down partly to Mr Morsi's inexperience of politics and government, after the decades in which the Muslim Brotherhood existed, at best, in a twilight zone. But they have only accelerated the growth of popular disillusionment. The economy is still in a dire state; tourism remains in the doldrums – and the latest violence will hardly remedy that. No progress has been made either in stemming unemployment or boosting public services – failures that reflect poorly on the efficacy of government.

This is not to negate the progress that has been made in the past two years. Egyptians have been to the ballot box no fewer than four times, in reasonably good order, and some of the recent violence doubtless reflects the heady effects of sudden freedom. But Mr Morsi does not have the luxury of time. With legislative elections due in late spring, he has still to convince voters that government can improve their lives and that there are better ways to settle differences than resorting to violence on the streets.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: a duchess by any other name is just wrong

Guy Keleny
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor