Egypt’s government struggles to gain footing as dissent grows

The New York Times reports: When the new military-backed Egyptian government lifted a nationwide state of emergency more than 10 days ago, it seemed to be proclaiming a momentary victory in the battle with its principal foe, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose regular protests had begun to wither.

But the government’s problems hardly abated. In brazen and occasionally spectacular attacks, militants have stepped up a campaign of assassinations and bombings aimed at the security services.

Non-Islamist critics have accused the government of incompetence or growing authoritarianism, potentially broadening the opposition beyond supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the deposed Islamist president. At the same time, unrest has begun to surface in different places, lately sweeping up Islamist students on university campuses.

And notably, small cracks have begun to appear in the coalition that supported the ouster of Mr. Morsi as the government has faced anger from recent allies and rare criticism in the once-fawning local news media. It has become harder for officials to blame the Brotherhood for all the nation’s woes, nearly five months after it was swept from power and then battered by a relentless campaign of state repression. But rather than trying to move beyond the conflict, the government still seems largely shaped by it.

Officials have started to dismiss critics using the language of previous autocratic rulers, blaming a shadowy fifth column or foreign meddling. And in response to dissent, they have drafted repressive new laws to replace the state of emergency, including a law issued on Sunday that bans protests by more than 10 people without the government’s approval.

“They have kept alive the idea of ‘enemies of the nation’ and the war on terror — the only glue keeping the bits and pieces together,” said Rabab el-Mahdi, a political science professor at the American University of Cairo, speaking of the interim government. “For any ruling alliance to be stable, it cannot depend on force or coercion. They lack any kind of ideological shield, except being against the Brotherhood.”

“They are not delivering,” Ms. Mahdi added, “and they will keep facing the dissent.” [Continue reading…]

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