Following a court decision last month that sentenced 21 people to death over a football riot in which 74 revelers died, the City of Port Said found itself under the crushing force of rioters protesting the decision.
Port Said is not the only city suffering from protests. Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and many other cities to protest the Muslim Brotherhood, a faltering economy, falling foreign investment, high poverty rates and a general decline in hope for the future.
Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, who won the first openly democratic elections in Egypt, has unfortunately been incapable of finding a way to end these riots, mostly because of the fact that he seems to have forgotten the Arab Spring revolutions that brought him to power in the first place.
Morsi’s responses to this point have been wholly inadequate in addressing the continuing problems of the Egyptian governmental system. Egypt is obviously experiencing a crisis of legitimacy and a perpetual cycle of shaky governments. As the crisis continues, political protests occur and governments are less able to provide the basic state functions for the people.
Since the protests began, Morsi has reduced the power of the courts and legislature in a bid to increase his own power within the government. The military has also taken physical action, rolling out tanks and tear gas. Morsi has also declared a state of emergency in various cities, most notably Port Said. In response, Port Said’s citizens are now calling for independence from the Egyptian state over the abuses of power by the president, causing even more discord.
Morsi’s decision to declare states of emergency and to meet rioters with tanks and tear gas is exactly the wrong way to address the demands of otherwise well-intentioned protestors. As Australian counter-insurgency expert David Kilcullen writes in his book The Accidental Guerrilla, responding to calls for change with excessive force disproportionally harms the civilian population. As the violence from the ruling power — in this case, the Egyptian government — increases, then otherwise peaceful and moderate civilians are driven to extremism. Morsi’s actions are now only creating more political protest and violence, and Morsi must immediately reverse his decisions on the use of force to preserve the Egyptian state.
In addition, Morsi needs to listen to his protestors and turn his attention and the resources of Egypt toward fixing the fundamental problems within the country today. A democratically governed Egypt would give Morsi the opportunity to create economic development by creating a country desirable for business headquartering. Because of Egypt’s close proximity to the Suez Canal, the country can become a crossroads of trade and ideas between Europe, Asia and Africa. Capitalizing on this location would give Egypt a fantastic opportunity to grow economically, but only if Egypt’s people are happy and finally receive the democracy that they were promised. If Morsi continues to rule the country with hostility to progress, free expression and law and order, then businesses will flee from a fertile economic environment that could have been.
Morsi needs to move away from his reactive policies of repression and toward progressive policies of fair justice and economic development. Only then can the Arab Spring finally bloom into a just and prosperous summer.
Dan Morgan-Russell is a freshman majoring in international relations.