A wave of protests is sweeping Egypt ahead of the presidential elections on Wednesday of next week, as the opposition Kifaya (Enough) movement is calling for a boycott of the poll.
On Monday 22 August up to 600 opposition activists marched through the Nile Delta city of Mansoura chanting slogans against the government and calling on people to boycott the elections.
The march follows a series of local protests that have challenged Egypt’s draconian security laws.
On 21 August a small demonstration by the Youth for Change, linked to the Kifaya movement, marched through the Nahia district of Giza, a poor suburb of Cairo.
They chanted, “Enough of the dictator Mubarak. Enough of water pollution. Enough of the bread queues”.
In May a peaceful protest against a national referendum on constitutional changes was brutally attacked by thugs from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), police and state security officers.
In July a protest in Midan Tahrir, Cairo’s central square, was dispersed by plain clothes police armed with clubs.
Central Cairo has now been closed off to any protest. When they do take place they are surrounded by riot police and attacked by security police.
In response Kifaya have organised illegal “surprise” demonstrations across the country.
Diaa el-Sawi, a spokesperson for Youth for Change, said after the Giza march, “We shall continue our movement. We shall continue to challenge president Hosni Mubarak and his brutal security apparatus.
“We challenge them to try and stop our activities or monitor them. Our message to them is, expect us in each and every Egyptian street and alley. Expect us near your very homes.
“Next time we shall be closer than you would like to believe.”
As Egypt moves towards presidential elections it is the small, often brief and violent struggles, that is giving voice to the growing popular anger against the regime of Hosni Mubarak.
Discontent is spreading. Striking asbestos workers occupied the head offices of the Egypt trade union federation. The workers carried a banner declaring, “We refused to die of cancer, our fate is to die of hunger.”
Workers, peasants and students are losing their fear of the emergency laws.
Mubarak, a key ally of the US in the Middle East, has been in power since 1981, ruling the country under laws put in place after the assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat.
In the 1990s Egypt agreed to a programme of neo-liberal reforms imposed by the International Monetary Fund.
Many of Egypt’s state-run industries have been privatised, while the country’s welfare and education systems have been run down.
The regime has been dismantling land reforms brought in during the 1950s and 1960s.
Under pressure from a growing opposition movement that includes Arab nationalists, the Muslim Brotherhood and the left, the regime agreed to the first multi-candidate presidential elections.
The election campaign was launched amid a new round of repression targeting the left and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Opposition groups and human rights organisations fear the elections will be rigged to return Mubarak.
Egyptian judges last month demanded they should oversee the poll after years of rigged referendums that always return Mubarak despite his widespread unpopularity.
During the referendum for the change in the constitution Egyptian journalists were able to cast several votes in different polling stations because they wore an NDP badge.
An opposition activist in Cairo, who asked to remain anonymous, told Socialist Worker that there is a growing mood of anger and frustration at the elections.
The activist said, “This is an illegitimate election following an illegal change in the constitution. We were promised that the multi-candidate poll would be part of a real shift towards democracy.
“But everyone knows that Mubarak will win the elections. These elections will be rigged.”