Opinion

Why Egypt’s Liberal Opposition Has Failed

Why Egypt’s Liberal Opposition Has Failed

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Two young protesters at a recent Anti-Morsi demonstration at Tahrir Square.

“The opposition. They stand in front of the cameras and make strong vows, but never really represent the Egyptian people.” Those were the words of one discontent Egyptian taxi-driver who took part in recent protests against President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. “The opposition has simply become ‘Anti-Morsi’ and nothing more. They have forgotten us.”

Over the past few weeks, Egypt has been rocked by a wave of violence. More than 50 have been killed and hundreds injured in protests that rivalled those that brought down Former President Hosni Mubarak on January 25th 2011. The protests – which initially started in early December after the President’s “dictatorial decrees” – temporarily managed to unite Egyptians in ways never seen before. The once divided opposition quickly formed a new bloc consisting of 35 parties – the National Salvation Front (NSF) – with the aims of representing the people’s demands, aspirations, and suffering.

Egypt's top opposition leaders - many who ran for Presidency - stood side-by-side at one of the first Anti-Morsi protests.
Egypt’s top opposition leaders (Mohamed El-Baradei, Amr Moussa, and Hamdeen Sabbahi) stood side-by-side at one of the first Anti-Morsi protests.

Yet, what started off as an opposition bloc that represented the frustrations of the people quickly descended into a bloc that is out of touch with Egypt’s streets. As protests escalated and violence flared, the NSF seemed unable to divert the anger towards Morsi to support for a transitional government led by the opposition leaders.

The reasoning for this was perfectly described by the taxi-driver: the opposition has simply become ‘Anti-Morsi’ and nothing further. Each statement released by the spokesperson of the bloc tends to fiercely criticize the ruling Islamist party without providing any alternative options.

The liberals lack any connection with Egypt’s streets. They need to engage with the public by meeting with locals, visiting cities and towns across Egypt, learning about the people’s suffering and day-to-day lives, holding conferences to explain their rationale, and creating a plan for how they will create a new and thriving Egypt.

Former Presidential Candidate and opposition leader Amr Moussa would visit cities across Egypt and speak to the locals during his election campaign. Today, that is needed more than ever.

It is the lack of the NSF’s presence in Egypt’s streets that has allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to win Egyptian voters. “The Muslim Brotherhood are well-organized. They operate Islamist schools, hospitals, grocery stores, charities, retail shops…and all other sections of Egyptian society. They make an impact on the lives of millions of Egyptians who live on less than 2$ a day,” explained an Egyptian government official who wished to remain anonymous. “How much impact are the liberals or secularists really having on the lives of Egyptians whose purpose in life is to be able to provide for their families?”

The opposition sits in its ivory tower instead of standing before the locals in Beni Suef or Port Said. A press conference from an air-conditioned room in Cairo does nothing to create real change or an immeasurable connection.

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