A masked Egyptian protester part of the Black Bloc, flashes the victory sign during clashes with riot police, background, near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013. An unpredictable new element has entered Egypt’s wave of political unrest, a mysterious group of black-masked young men calling themselves the Black Bloc. They present themselves as the defenders of protesters against the rule of President Mohammed Morsi, but Islamists have used them to depict the opposition as a violent force wrecking the nation. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Tuesday, January 29, 2013 4:49 pm
Who's who in Egypt's latest political crisis
By The Associated Press
- President Mohammed Morsi, the longtime Muslim Brotherhood figure who became Egypt's first freely elected leader: During his seven months in office, he sidelined the previous military leadership, pushed through an Islamist-backed constitution and began installing Brotherhood supporters in some state institutions. But in the process, large sectors of the public were alienated, and he has failed to put forward a program to salvage a crumbling economy.
After violence erupted last week, he was silent for days until a Sunday night TV address to the nation in which he wagged his finger and at times screamed, announcing a 30-day state of emergency and nighttime curfew in three Suez Canal provinces, vowing to take stronger action if unrest continued.
- The Muslim Brotherhood, the secretive, 82-year-old fundamentalist group that forms the backbone of Morsi's leadership: Egypt's most organized political group with a nationwide network of activists, it has dominated elections since the fall of Mubarak. It says that gives it the mandate to reshape Egypt, insisting it supports democracy with a conservative religious basis. Opponents call it undemocratic, accuse it of trying to dominate Egypt and fear it is stepping into the place of Mubarak's former ruling party.
When protests the past week turned violent with attacks on police stations and government offices, the Brotherhood have portrayed the protesters as thugs and old regime loyalists.
- Police: The security forces were driven from the streets during the anti-Mubarak uprising and they have never fully returned, remaining in disarray and resentful, hated by many for the deaths of protesters and past abuses. During this week's violence, angry policemen drove their top boss, the interior minister, out of a funeral for two officers killed in the rioting, accusing him of not doing enough to protect them. The police complain they are not adequately armed to face protesters attacking police stations. They are also reluctant to risk their lives to protect the rule of the Islamists, their enemies during the Mubarak years.
- The military: Generals ruled Egypt directly for nearly 17 months after Mubarak's fall, a period that tainted their reputation in the eyes of many Egyptians because of abuses. They have at times appeared to have reached an understanding with Morsi. But now commanders say they are in a predicament: Troops have deployed in the cities of Port Said and Suez to protect installations, but they want to avoid confrontations with protesters. In a stark warning, army chief and defense minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said if the crisis continues, it could lead to the collapse of the state.
- Salafis, ultraconservative Islamists who have emerged as Egypt's second strongest political force: They have largely supported Morsi, at times pushing the government for a stricter, more extensive implementation of Shariah, or Islamic law. They have so far stayed away from the protests. But Tareq el-Zomor, a prominent Salafi from the onetime jihadist group Gamaa Islamiya, warned in a news conference that party members would set up vigilante groups to protect private and public property if security forces fail to do so, a prospect that carries the danger of street clashes between Islamists and opposition supporters.
- The National Salvation Front, the main opposition coalition: It was formed in November amid a wave of public anger against Morsi over decrees, since rescinded, giving him almost unrestricted powers. Led by Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, it groups the main liberal and secular opposition parties and includes two former presidential candidates, Hamdeen Sabahi and ex-Arab League chief Amr Moussa. It does not officially represent the young men and women taking part in protests. It rejected a call by Morsi this weekend for dialogue, saying the talks were not serious - a move that could boost its credibility among protesters. It has also threatened to boycott the next parliamentary elections, possibly in April, if Morsi does not meet demands for a national unity government and the amending of contentious clauses in the constitution.
- The Black Bloc is a mysterious group of masked young men who present themselves as the defenders of protesters opposed to the Morsi's rule. The youths with faces hidden under black masks have appeared among stone-throwing protesters in clashes with police around Egypt the past week. On Tuesday, top prosecutor Talaat Abdullah ordered that all members of the group be arrested on sight.