Egypt: Disasters Dog the Muslim Brotherhood

A boy rests in front of a closed shop at Tahrir Square in Cairo 16 January 2013. (Photo: Reuters - Suhaib Salem)

By: Abdel Rahman Youssef

Published Thursday, January 17, 2013

As popular anger against Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and his government grows ahead of the revolution’s second anniversary, a recent building collapse in Alexandria has prompted questions of whether or not he’ll follow through on his election promises.

Alexandria is fast becoming Egypt’s capital of disasters, particularly when it comes to buildings.

Last July, a building in the Gomruk area collapsed, killing 19 and injuring 47. This was followed by another collapse of an eight-story building on Wednesday, leading to another 22 deaths and 11 injuries, according to the city’s health ministry.

Also in July, a train derailed in Badrashin south of Cairo, resulting in over a dozen injuries, followed by a series of minor building collapses in various parts of the country over the last six months.

This series of disasters came as a blow to President Mursi and his government, who are being blamed for not acting fast enough to fix infrastructure problems that they inherited from the Mubarak regime.

Decades of neglect and corruption under Mubarak have left behind a legacy of disasters waiting to happen. In Alexandria alone, government housing officials estimate that up to 10,000 buildings are at risk of collapse.

Officials of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) have responded to criticism by blaming the building collapses and train crashes on the previous regime. Mursi’s defenders argue that a few months in office are not enough to deal with 30 years of neglect and corruption.

Mohammed Abdul-Salam, opposition activist and founder of the Justice and Freedom Movement, begs to differ: “I can understand blaming the previous regime for these problems, but I do not accept blaming it for Mursi’s failure to execute clear plans and programs and to fulfill promises he made during the elections.”

He insists that Egypt is still a failed state, but it just has a new face in power, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of solely focusing their energies on consolidating their power over the state and limiting people’s freedoms.

He adds that Mursi is not so much concerned with addressing popular demands and that his actions amount to “pure political maneuvering.”

Economically, Abdul-Salam points out, the president is following in his predecessor’s footsteps by negotiating loans with the International Monetary Fund and hoping to gain the approval of Washington and Tel Aviv.

He rejects the accusation that the opposition is using these calamities to mobilize people for the January 25 protests, “as if the Egyptian people are in need of someone to tell them about the misery they’re living in,” he says.

Rights activist Haitham Abu-Khalil has a different point of view: “Blaming Mursi and the Brotherhood for every disaster that occurs in the country is questionable. It makes remnants of the old regime, like former prime minister Ahmad Shafik, gripe and protest.”

“There is a decades-old rotten legacy,” he adds, “that Mursi and his colleague inherited. And despite my difference with him, he deserves to be given more time to deal with the repercussions of the previous regime.”

The equation, Abu-Khalil insists, should be “full opportunity for Mursi equals full accountability for Mursi.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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