Morsi has betrayed the Egyptian revolution

Worsening safety for women, breakdowns in the rule of law, crackdowns on cultural activity and police abuse - the Arab Spring wasn't meant to end like this.

As the first anniversary of President Morsi’s transition to power in Egypt draws closer, the 15 million signatures on a petition calling for his resignation loom large. Feted, then widely mocked, as the runner-up in Time's 2012 Person of the Year poll, his presidency being questioned by massive national protests scheduled for the end of this month. Egypt is expected to come to a halt with many expecting violence between Morsi supporters and the indefatigable pro-democracy movement. Throw in the possibility that thousands of Egypt's anarchic 'ultra' football fans and the thugs known as 'baltagaya' may join either side and these protests could turn out to be very nasty indeed.

There is a sense of anger among many at Morsi for belying the democratic ideals of the revolution. Civil society groups in particular are concerned. The conviction of 43 NGO workers, including 16 Americans, at the start of June for receiving foreign funds and operating without a licence, and the closure of Freedom House and other NGOs linked to the defendants, have sent jitters through the sector. Egypt’s activists and human rights researchers, forcibly muted under Mubarak, were an integral part of the revolution and have energetically created a space for research and discussion since his departure. They are now waiting to find out their fate, faced with a restrictive law currently with the Shura Council (Egypt’s senate) that may suffocate their existence.

Under this proposed law, a coordination committee will be put in place to determine issues relating to foreign funding. The committee will then need to give permission to groups before they can receive funds from overseas. It will include officials from the security and intelligence agencies as well as government ministries and civil society.

Those human rights organisations who have reported on the dark underbelly of the revolution, including torture, gang rapes and abuses by the Special Council of the Armed Forces, will be in a particularly difficult position. The committee will have absolute discretion to block access to foreign funding without a requirement to justify the decision. This gives the government arbitrary powers to extinguish projects with which it does not agree.

"We do not know what will happen to NGOs if the NGO law is passed", said Chaimaa Tayssir of Cairo-based Nazra for Feminist Studies, an organisation that has contributed substantial research into the rapes of women in Tahrir Square. "Funding for NGOs has traditionally come from outside Egypt since the Mubarak era. There is a sense that wealthy Egyptians giving to the NGO sector will be disadvantaged in future business deals if they give."

A whispering campaign in the media has also begun, seemingly attempting to portray NGOs in Egypt as spies or as recipients of money from western governments intent on destroying Egyptian culture. This is having a particular impact on organizations focusing on women’s rights, the interpretation of which is becoming an increasingly divisive topic in Egypt. Attacks on female protesters in Tahrir Square and the harassment of women on Egyptian streets seem to indicate resentment in some sectors towards women participating in public life.

The worsening safety for women in Egypt’s public spaces, breakdowns in the rule of law, crackdowns on cultural activity and recent reports of alleged police abuse under have seen the electorate turn away from the Muslim Brotherhood in droves. Twenty eight year old Mohammed El-Gindy was reportedly tortured to death by police after several days of protesting in Tahrir Square in January this year, while in the same month a video from the Associated Press surfaced showing protestor Hamarda Saber being beaten by riot police and dragged naked through the streets.

As Cairo residents and those in other major Egyptian cities prepare to take to the streets again, pro-democracy supporters say they are digging in their heels for the long game. Having overcome so much since it all began in January 2011, they are not going home now. Cairo activist Hicham Ezzat who has attended the protests from the beginning is reflective. "Thoughts of myself were transcended when I watched people next to me get shot and die in Tahrir. We fought for our human rights and Morsi has not respected them. We must now write a new page of Egyptian history, this time with an elected government that respects the human rights space the Egyptian people have fought so hard for."

Charlotte Allan is policy and advocacy officer for CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

An Egyptian man holds a placard as hundreds of anti-government protesters shout political slogans against president Mohammed Morsi in Tahrir Square. Photograph: Getty Images.

Charlotte Allan is policy and advocacy officer for CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Getty Images.
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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.