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Reversal of Fortune in Egypt: How the Muslim Brotherhood Fumbled

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There has been a lot of debate about the nature of Egypt's changing political landscape in the past few days -- did a coup remove President Mohamed Morsi or was the military acting on behalf of a massive popular uprising?

The debate has raged from social media all the way to the White House.

But one thing almost everyone agrees on is how quickly the 85-year-old Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi lost favour with the people.

The Brotherhood -- once considered underdog champions of revolution against the former regime -- were suddenly reviled and blamed for allowing Egypt to collapse into a failed state.

The astonishing reversal of fortune reminded me of the rapid transformation of life-long Muslim Brotherhood supporter Ibrahim Omar, a vegetable and fruit vendor.

In June 2012, the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces was set to relinquish control to a civilian administration. Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi was in a runoff against Ahmed Shafik, a former Egyptian air force commander.

"I voted for Morsi because I don't want a secular, liberal government in Egypt ... we need the kind of Islamic governance that the Brotherhood will use to wipe out corruption and debauchery here," Omar told me shortly after filling out his ballot a year ago.

There was hope in Egypt that a civilian government would quickly begin to address the country's most pressing problems -- the economy, unemployment, and lack of security.

Morsi moved quickly to consolidate his power base; he removed the leading echelon of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and replaced them with General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. There was no backlash against him. (In later months, however, his shake-up of the military would return to haunt him as violence and insecurity increase in the Sinai Peninsula.)

I returned to Egypt two months later, however, to find Omar angry and increasingly despondent.

"We haven't seen any progress since he [Morsi] was elected," Omar said.

Over time Omar grew increasingly despondent, echoing the mood of millions of Egyptians.

In the fall, local media assessed Morsi's first 100 days in office and criticized the president for doing little to address the needs of the people who gave him a mandate to run the country.

Morsi responded by declaring the media hostile and then issuing a constitutional declaration dismissing Prosecutor General Abdel Maguid Mahmoud and replacing him with Talaat Ibrahim Abdullah.

The decree also included a clause that Morsi's assumed power could not be appealed or canceled by any individual or body; he also gave the majority Islamist constituent assembly an extension of two months to draft a constitution, which ultimately passed through a rushed referendum.

Many criticized the new constitution for rolling back decades of slow progress in the rights of women and minorities, and doing away with gender equality. Tens of thousands took to the streets in near persistent demonstrations and protests saying the constitution was repressive.

At the same time, Egyptians were shocked to hear a small number of prominent Islamic clerics say they wouldn't mind seeing the pyramids and sphinx destroyed.

This was followed by demonstrations of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters demanding that Islamic Sharia be the law of the land.

Many feared that rather than create political consensus in democracy-building institutions, the Muslim Brotherhood strategy was to impose its ideologies on all sectors of Egyptian society.

The President was beginning to lose the trust of the people; he was accused of hoarding power in a manner worse than the former regime. At the same time, it seemed the government was unable to combat increasingly brazen crime -- people were being mugged in daylight, home break-ins skyrocketed and taxis were being hijacked for ransom.

And then came a nearly endless downward spiral. The Egyptian pound lost 16 per cent of its value; street protests against Morsi's constitutional decrees and intervention in the judiciary mounted.

Egypt's foreign currency reserves fell to $13.5 billion as the stock market plunged due to foreign investment flight out of the country.

The bad news just kept coming culminating in the battle between the president and the independent judiciary he was hoping to bring under his control.

While Muslim Brotherhood supporters angrily surrounded several courts in Cairo in late March and April, effectively barring the work of the judiciary, Morsi's allies tried to find a way to force thousands of prominent judges out of their jobs.

This angered many political pundits who charged that Morsi was acting like Gamal Abdel Nasser, a former president who held Egypt with an iron fist in the 1960s.

This further fueled the frustration, anger and disillusionment of millions of Egyptians who felt they were drowning in hopelessness.

The economy had become garroted due to lack of political stability and a stalled tourism industry. Unemployment and inflation continued to rise beyond the capacity of a workforce struggling to put food on the table.

The persistent power and water outages, further exacerbated the frustrations of millions of Egyptians, but the last straw appeared to be the lack of gasoline a mere 10 days ago which led to kilometre-long queues of motorists hoping to fill their tanks.

Morsi also suffered a considerable setback when a cabinet meeting chastising Ethiopia for building a dam over the upstream Nile River was broadcast live, including threats of war and intimidation made by Egyptian legislators to influence Addis Ababa.

Egypt was asphyxiating under the weight of problems the government of President Mohamed Morsi was unable -- or unwilling -- to solve.

Less than a year into his presidency, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were seen as incompetent and ill equipped to govern. Then came the events of June 30 to July 3, 2013.

I called Omar a few hours ago to gauge his opinion of what happened to Morsi. Omar was happier than I had known him to be in some time. He believed that the Egyptian military fulfilled its role in "protecting the people."

"We have hope again."

Egyptians React To Removal Of Morsi
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