Thursday 23 February 2017

Growing protests pushing Egypt towards revolution

Adrian Blomfield in Cairo

Egyptian riot police clash with anti-government protesters in the port city of Suez, 134km east of Cairo yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Egyptian riot police clash with anti-government protesters in the port city of Suez, 134km east of Cairo yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Egypt is pitched on the brink of revolution after police warned President Hosni Mubarak that they could soon lose control of mass demonstrations planned for today.

Mr Mubarak's grip on power was slipping yesterday and momentum appeared to shift rapidly in favour of pro-democracy activists.

Protest organisers were undeterred by a violent police response and the deaths of at least seven people after three days of clashes in Cairo and other cities, saying they planned to make today's marches the biggest yet.

Demonstrators were given a further boost after Mohamed ElBaradei, one of Mr Mubarak's fiercest critics, returned to Egypt from Vienna to join the protests, providing opponents of the regime with a potential figurehead.

Mr Mubarak's ruling party convened in emergency session yesterday. It is desperate to avoid a repeat of Tunisia's Jasmine Revolt earlier this month in which President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted.

Sources in Egypt said the 82-year-old president was told by police commanders that any demonstration attracting more than 70,000 people could not be contained.

A page announcing today's protest on Facebook, one of the social networking websites that has played a leading role in mobilising opposition, drew more than 56,000 supporters in 24 hours.

While many of those are likely to stay at home, analysts say the regime's failure to break the protests will only embolden more Egyptians to join them.

Yesterday the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood -- Egypt's largest opposition group -- also threw its support behind the protests. Its supporters could give the protests a major numerical boost.

Quell

If the police are unable to quell the demonstrations, Mr Mubarak will be left with no choice but to turn to the army. Although Egypt's generals have been unquestioning in their loyalty to the president, they may baulk at the prospect of ordering their troops to open fire at unarmed protesters and turn against him. In what could be a sign of things to come, some army units in Suez, the eastern city that has seen some of the worst of the violence, reportedly refused orders to disperse protesters yesterday.

Although he has been a leading Western ally, Mr Mubarak was also facing growing international isolation as the United States and Britain both called on him to heed the grievances of his people by instituting reforms. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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