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Egyptians Pay Price For Tumultuous Year

Bassem Sabry reviews what Egypt won and lost in 2012.
People and vehicles travel under a banner which reads "People isolate President", at Tahrir Square, after protesters opened it to traffic, in Cairo December 30, 2012. Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil said on Sunday he expected a resumption of talks in January with the International Monetary Fund on a $4.8 billion loan. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh  (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

It’s the end of 2012, a long and tumultuous year in Egypt, one in which events could easily be spread over a decade and still make it an utterly exhausting one. At perhaps the year’s political pinnacle, Egypt has just adopted a new and extremely controversial constitution that garnered less than 63.8% in a national referendum of low turnout (had the opposition pressed the case for a minimum victory threshold of 66-70%, the constitution would have fallen), following a protracted and bitter political crisis that is anything but effectively or officially over. Instead of this new constitution bringing national jubilation and a modicum of unity, the country appears to be locked in a dangerous political standoff and engulfed in what feels like a pervading sense of bleak and tense turmoil, one that you could feel just walking in the streets. 

Out of all the involved parties, President Mohammed Morsi has arguably suffered the biggest political damage throughout the recent political crisis. He appeared for quite some time to be better settling into power and becoming relatively more capable in handling his role, which culminated in his local and international hailing for Egypt’s role in brokering the Gaza cease-fire. It was only a day later, however, when he was dubbed a “dictator” and “Mursilini” following the constitutional declaration in which he — among other things — granted him absolute powers and protection from judicial oversight. Throughout the crisis, the president experienced group walkouts and public hints of resignation and disapproval from members of his advisory team and administration, a direct and utterly painful confrontation by a loud and significantly united judiciary, has unintentionally led to the astonishingly instantaneous and once unthinkable unity of the opposition as well as a massive popular outpour in the streets against him. The president was eventually forced to rely (often indirectly) on the Islamist base to solidify his position, used all-too-familiar language of foreign conspiracies seeking to harm the country, effectively obliterating months of attempts at being at the heart of a wider united national umbrella and reconciliatory rhetoric. Adding to that an increasingly unpopular government and a slew of controversial (then quickly retracted) decisions, an ailing economy, and the constitution garnering in the referendum what is arguably an insufficient mandate, the president has thus far lost a golden and virtually irreplaceable unique chance emerging as a national leader who managed to bring Egyptians together and bring a unified country forward.

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