Why Egyptians are angry at Morsi, in charts

December 8, 2012

After Friday protests in which at least seven people died and hundreds were injured, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is attempting to hold talks with opposition leaders in an effort to resolve a political crisis that has gripped the country for more than two weeks, His opponents, however, are rejecting offers to negotiate.

Morsi's critics haven't backed down from their claim that his recent decree granting himself sweeping authority means he now has more power than his autocratic predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, and the country's judges have also largely stopped working in protest.


An Egyptian army officer detains a man near the presidential palace. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser). Click through for more photos.

Now, Morsi is threatening to expand the military's powers, authorizing soldiers to arrest civilians.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the opposition National Salvation Front's chief coordinator, called on opposition groups to shun dialogue with Morsi, the Guardian reported, and George Ishak, another opposition leader, said on Twitter: "Whoever has killed his own people has lost legitimacy."

Protesters have attacked dozens of Muslim Brotherhood offices around the country, and thousands of opposition protesters swarmed the presidential palace Friday, breaking through barbed-wire barricades and chanting slogans against Morsi. Judging from photos and tweets at the scene of the protests, Morsi's opponents appear to be swept up in revolutionary fervor:

 

As rifts in Egyptian society deepen as the country attempts to transition to a functioning democracy, it's worth noting that a growing frustration with authoritarianism was a main catalyst of the revolution that toppled the previous government last year.

In the lead-up to Mubarak's ouster, pollsters found that Egyptians overwhelmingly sought Western-style democracy, more so than many other countries in the region that experienced Arab Spring uprisings.

In the 2010 Gallup survey, more than 80 percent of Egyptians said they agreed with the statement "Moving toward greater democracy will help Muslims progress" -- more than said so in any other Muslim-majority society polled.

Respondents also largely craved greater social freedoms, such as free speech and religion. Gallup notes:

Egyptians also said one of the aspects they admired most about the West, besides its technology, was its democratic ideals. In 2009, 97 percent of Egyptians told Gallup they would guarantee free speech if they [were] drafting a new constitution for a new country. Three-quarters said the same about freedom of religion.


Screenshot: Gallup.

At the same time, Egyptians were also far less likely to have expressed their desire for greater openness to a public official. Only 4 percent of Egyptian respondents told Gallup in 2009 they had done so, the lowest level among all the countries surveyed:

Screen shot: Gallup
Screen shot: Gallup

What's more, the number of Egyptians who said were satisfied with their levels of personal freedom fell by 30 percentage points between 2005 and 2010, compounding their growing frustrations over economic opportunities, democracy and social services.


Screen shot: Gallup

But despite their negative sentiments in the lead-up to the revolution, Egyptians were strikingly hopeful in its immediate aftermath.

Another Gallup survey from this fall found that countries that underwent Arab Spring revolutions were feeling far more optimistic about their social and economic prospects than those that didn't, and that Egyptians were foremost among them. Nearly 81 percent said they thought prospects for "good governance" would improve as a result of the Arab Spring.

Screenshot: Gallup
Screenshot: Gallup

Even after their experience with Mubarak, Egyptians seemed to be ready to embark on a new, more democratic era, with roughly 82 percent of survey respondents expecting fair and honest elections. 

The majority also said they wanted the military out of politics, which makes Morsi's possible martial-law decree even more worrisome.

In an eerily prescient statement, Gallup noted that whoever came after Mubarak had better not disappoint, or else they would face the wrath of Egyptians and their newly high expectations:

Those in countries that underwent revolts, on the other hand, expect a brighter economic and political future as a result. These revolutionary publics also largely believe they drove the change that toppled their former leaders, suggesting a greater sense of empowerment as active participants in the affairs of their country. If leaders don't live up to these high aspirations, they may face more severe consequences than they would have before the revolts, when people expected much less.

"For the first time in a generation, Arab societies look to Egypt for hope and inspiration," Nathan Brown, a professor at George Washington University, wrote in the immediate aftermath.

It seems that in addition to anger and factionalism, Egypt's newest wave of unrest also represents dashed hopes.

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Max Fisher · December 7, 2012