• 20:56
  • Wednesday ,26 December 2012

Egypt in 2012: Political ecstasy, revolutionary U-turns

By Eman El-Shenawi



Wednesday ,26 December 2012

Egypt in 2012: Political ecstasy, revolutionary U-turns

With the election of a new president and a transformed post-revolutionary political scene, 2012 has been a defining year for Egypt. 

January began with Egypt's Islamist parties winning elections to parliament, with the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) winning the largest number of seats, while the hardline Salafi Nour party came second.
Thousands flooded Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square to commemorate the first anniversary of the January 25 revolution. While many were celebrating, others held banners as they chanted slogans against the country's military leaders.
But the revolutionary thrill turned sour in February when 74 people were killed in clashes between rival fans following a football match in the city of Port Said. 
In March, Egypt lifted a travel ban on American NGO workers in Egypt, who faced charges such as inciting protests against the nation's military rulers, charges which had sparked a sensitive rift between the U.S. and Egypt. 
And the country was in mourning again at the loss of Egypt’s Coptic Pope Shenouda III who died at the age of 88 on March 17. 
At the end of the month, focus returned to the upcoming presidential elections as the Muslim Brotherhood announced it selected businessman Khairat al-Shater to run as the presidential nominee.
In April, bans on ten presidential candidates were upheld, including al-Shater, ex-spy chief Omar Suleiman, and Salafi candidate Hazem Abu Ismail.
A poll ban on Mubarak-era PM Ahmed Shafiq was reversed allowing him to run alongside liberal figurehead Hamdeen Sabahy, former Arab League chief Amr Moussa and moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, among others.
Televised presidential debates aired in the following month as Egypt geared up for a landmark vote on May 23.
The vote resulted in a runoff round between the Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammed Mursi and Shafiq.
It was a blast from the past in June when Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison for complicity in the killing of protesters during last year's uprising. 
And June continued to be eventful as Egypt's highest court annulled the Islamist-majority parliament, while Military rulers declared full legislative authority, triggering fresh chaos and cries of a “coup” from protesters. 
Later in the month, the result of the runoff vote resulted Mursi being declared Egypt’s new president, winning almost 52 percent of the vote. 
He later attended a ceremony in which the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces formally handed power over to Mursi.
In July, Mursi announced the appointment of Water Minister Hisham Kandil as prime minister and asked him to form a new government.
But tragedy struck in August, when unidentified gunmen attacked a checkpoint on the Egyptian-Israeli border, killing 16 Egyptian soldiers.
In response to the attack, the Egyptian military launched missile strikes against suspected Islamist militants in Sinai.
Also in August, Mursi shook up the country's military leadership, replacing top generals. Tantawi was given a top medal and "sent to retirement."
In September, protests across the Muslim world against an anti-Islam U.S.-made film hit Egypt. At least 224 people were injured after clashes outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo. 
In October, Mursi agreed to allow Mubarak-era chief prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahmoud to keep his job after an embarrassing public row which criticized Mahmoud for acquitting officials accused of attacking protesters under Mubarak.
In November, Coptic Christians picked Bishop Tawadros Theodorus II, a process that involved a blindfolded boy choosing one of three names in a crystal chalice. 
Tawadros told Al Arabiya he is uninvolved in politics, saying that the Church as an institution is spiritual and not political.
Egypt was in national mourning again later in the month when 50 children and the driver of the school bus they were on were killed when their vehicle was hit by a train in central Egypt.
Then in November, the political scene erupted with Mursi issuing a declaration banning challenges to his decrees, laws and decisions as he used the new powers to sack the chief prosecutor and order the retrial of people accused of attacking protesters when Mubarak held office.
Opposition figureheads, such as Mohammed ElBaradei accused Mursi of acting like a "new pharaoh" as protesters stormed Muslim Brotherhood headquarters across the country.
Mursi was also occupied with Israeli attacks on Gaza, brokering a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas.
At home, Egypt's Islamist-run assembly backed a draft constitution, including a measure keeping Shariah as the main source of legislation, a charter which many liberals opposed.
In December, Egypt’s judges refused to oversee the constitutional referendum in protest of the draft charter, then later “conditionally agreed” as the vote was set to go ahead.
Mursi’s supporters and opponents continued to rally across Egypt, where deadly clashes outside the presidential palace killed eight people and injured more than 640.
Then, in a U-turn, the president scrapped the decree that gave him extra powers, but this did not placate his opponents as Mursi pressed on with the referendum.
Mursi's decision had come after Egypt's military warned that failure to resolve a crisis over the drafting of the constitution would result in "disastrous consequences" that could drag the country into a "dark tunnel."
Defiantly, on the first day of voting in the referendum, the opposition urged voters to reject the new constitution and accused the Muslim Brotherhood of attempted “vote rigging.”
But the constitution was approved by a majority of Egyptians in a referendum, rival camps said this week after two rounds of voting.
It was a tentative disappointment for many liberal camps when the Brotherhood announced 64 percent of voters backed the charter, citing an unofficial tally and bringing the vote to a cautious end. 
The constitution, the opposition says, has driven a wedge through the Arab world's most populous nation and as 2012 draws to a close, the next year will prove to be another test of Egypt's plethora of divisions.