An Uprising in Egypt

Tension builds as the Middle Eastern country moves toward a new constitution 

Dec 05, 2012 | By Stephanie Kraus
ED GILES—GETTY IMAGES

Protests in Cairo, the capitol of Egypt, turned violent on Tuesday night. More than 300 people staged a sit-in protest against Egypt’s President, Mohamed Morsi, outside the gates of the presidential palace.

Morsi claimed victory in a landmark presidential election on June 18. The vote took place 16 months after an uprising forced Hosni Mubarak to step down as Egypt’s leader. The elections were part of a series of sweeping changes across the Middle East and North Africa. Morsi represents a group called the Muslim Brotherhood. At one time outlawed in Egypt, the group works to promote a form of political Islam. Although the group outlawed violence 40 years ago, it has supported others who promote violence.

A Country At Odds

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi speaks to an assembly in Cairo December 1.
EGYPTIAN STATE TELEVISION/AP
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi speaks to an assembly in Cairo December 1.

The protest is part of a political crisis in a country that is divided over the rule of the President. In November, Morsi proposed changes to the country’s constitution. His opponents believe he is trying to gain more power and will become a dictator.

His opponents took their protests to the streets. Tension came to a breaking point on Tuesday, as a vote on the constitution nears. Morsi’s supporters chased the protestors and tore down their tents. The rival groups threw stones and sticks at each other.

Mohamed Elbaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and an opponent of Morsi, accused the President's supporters of a "vicious and deliberate" attack against peaceful demonstrators. He believes that Egypt’s bitter division is very damaging to the country. “After 23 months of struggling to bring democracy to Egypt, is this the best we can do?” he told the Financial Times. “[It is] opening the door for scenarios such as army intervention, a revolt of the poor, or even civil war.”

Nearing a Vote

Despite the crisis, Morsi shows no sign of backing down. He believes his supporters have the numbers to win at the ballot box. Many Egyptians want an end to the political disorder that has scared off investors and tourists and hurt the economy.

Today, Morsi returned to work at his compound. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed in on Egypt’s political debate, urging the need to continue talks on the new constitution, which should “respect the rights of all citizens.”

Egypt’s Vice President Mahmoud Makki addressed the nation on Wednesday. He says the vote for the constitution will move forward as scheduled on December 15.