Mohammed Morsi addresses a conference to mark the upcoming anniversary of one year in power on June 26, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt (AFP Photo / HO / Egyptian Presidency)
Stephen: What? An about face and a pledge to undertake ‘radical’ reforms to state institutions. Is this the same Egyptian Prime Minister who caused such outrage from his own people not so many months ago? Has he been watching Brazil’s President Dilma Rouseff and realised the error of his ways or was our earlier view skewed by selective mainstream reporting? His people are not sure.
By Patrick Kingsley in Cairo, The Guardian- June 26, 2013
The Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, used a televised address on Wednesday to admit to making mistakes in his first year in office.But the president also widened the divide between his Islamist supporters and Egypt’s secular opposition during his speech, blaming unspecified “enemies of Egypt” for sabotaging the democratic system and warning that the polarised state of the country’s politics threatened to plunge it into chaos.
Morsi pledged to introduce “radical and quick” reforms in state institutions, admitting some of his goals had not been achieved.
“Today, I present an audit of my first year, with full transparency, along with a roadmap. Some things were achieved and others not,” he said. “I have made mistakes on a number of issues.”
Yet in a meandering speech that lasted more than two and a half hours, Morsi refused to offer serious concessions to the opposition – and pointedly praised the army, whom many opposition members hope will facilitate a transition of power in the coming weeks.
On a night when many hoped he would strike a conciliatory tone, Morsi instead criticised opposition politicians for failing to engage in what he perceives to be constructive dialogue.
He spoke before a planned mass demonstration this weekend by his opponents who are demanding that the president resigns and calls an early election.
Almost a year on from Morsi’s election to power, Egypt is dangerously divided between his Islamist supporters and a secular opposition that sees his rule as incompetent and autocratic.
Activists claim 15 million Egyptians have signed a petition calling for his departure, and expect a significant proportion of that number to turn out on Sunday to force him from office.
Morsi was speaking at a conference hall filled by cabinet ministers and senior officials of his Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice party, along with several hundred supporters.
Thousands gathered to watch his speech on screens in Tahrir Square, the cradle of the 2011 uprising – and most reacted furiously for the duration of the address, many holding shoes as a sign of disrespect.
Hundreds of Egyptian anti government protesters shout political slogans against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Egypt’s landmark Tahrir square as they watch Morsi’s speech protesting against government and the Muslim Brotherhood on June 26, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt (AFP Photo / Gianluigi Guercia)
“It’s really shameful that the president of Egypt, after a whole year in office, walks on stage and starts accusing the whole country of treason,” argued Mohamed Zakaria, a tailor who watched the speech in Tahrir Square.
“We were hoping for major concessions but he’s given us nothing.”
But the speech may have helped to win over people undecided about joining Sunday’s protests.
Morsi often used the language of the street, at times sounding humble and pious.
“He spoke in a way that many Egyptians could relate to,” said Yasser el-Shimy, Egypt analyst for the Crisis Group.
“It was a very colloquial speech in which he sounded almost countrified. But it will have done little to convince his non-Islamist opponents.”
But while Morsi was at pains to win over the military, el-Shimy said the army – who deployed tanks on the streets of Cairo on Wednesday, and whose intentions are currently the subject of intense debate in Egypt – was unlikely to give him their support based merely on the contents of the speech.
“The army makes strategic decisions based on what they perceive to be the national interest,” el-Shimy said.