The Tamarod campaign has achieved considerable success in lobbying groups across the political spectrum in opposition against toppled President Mohamed Morsy through the signatures it collected to withdraw confidence from the now deposed leader. The campaign had managed to collect nearly 22 million signatures in less than the two months since its launch on 22 April.
This achievement was the driving force behind its call for protests against the president on the first anniversary of his inauguration on 30 June. The crowds responded immediately, and Morsy was forced out of office on 3 July 2013.
The campaign’s success recalls the question of the feasibility of popular action in Egypt in comparison to more traditional political groups. It represents a continuation of non-partisan youth and popular actions carried out since – and after – the revolution.
Recently, a number of factors have exacerbated the success of popular mobilization in Egypt – particularly Tamarod. That success has played out against the backdrop of the declining influence of more traditional political elites.
The first factor was the widespread public anger with governmental failures in the post-revolutionary period. This frustration persisted even after the election of Mohamed Morsy, and the public felt the need for change to achieve a better Egyptian future and the fulfilment of the revolution's founding goals.
The second factor lies in the weakness of Egypt’s political parties, especially those that existed prior to the revolution. These parties had not enjoyed popular bases and failed to position themselves as alternatives in the political scene. The absence of nuance between party platforms and slogans also played a part. Their platforms suffered from a common want of offering alternatives or finding solutions to problems facing Egyptian society. Parties even failed to separate themselves on the grounds of platforms, slogans and policies, lacking a connection with social forces on the ground.
The old regimes worked to politically neutralize Egypt's traditional parties, turning them into hollow shells unable to compete for power. Consequently, those parties lost the public's confidence, sustained a widening gap with the street, and, therefore, paved the way for emerging popular movements to take their place.
Thirdly, Tamarod relied on a set of simple, smooth methods of operation that enabled its members to effectively reach the public and thus gain their confidence and support. The campaign took to the street and engaged with citizens directly, encouraged by earlier successes by youth movements that followed the January 2011 revolution. Tamarod embarked on using paper and online forms to collect signatures demanding a withdrawal of confidence in the president and calling for early presidential elections. As the demand for early elections tied in with the goals of the political opposition, the campaign gained in political clout.
In addition, the campaign was able to avoid the mistakes committed by other popular initiatives in the past, choosing the right timing for its action and leaning on the mobilization of the youth, who are unaffected by the media limelight or attempts to defame them and are not engaged in any activities viewed unfavorably by a wide margin of society. Instead, Tamarod depended on grassroots initiatives and personal donations, giving it immunity against suspicions of shady financing.
Lastly, unlike other popular mobilization groups like the Black Bloc, Tamarod, since its founding, adopted peaceful methods, enabling it to gain a favorable view among a wide spectrum of society. Tamarod has taught us that peaceful popular action will be a tool of change in the future. Traditional political movements, on the other hand, often result in bloody revolts, military coups, or foreign intervention.
To conclude, the success of Tamarod and earlier youth movements has proved that changes in the Egyptian political arena are no longer brought about by the traditional elite, but rather by new political forces that operate outside of partisan boundaries and engage more effectively with the masses. This reflects the feebleness and erosion of Egypt’s partisan system, the political parties of which must evolve in order to regain the public’s confidence. This is particularly important given that many people will rely on the legislature – whose members belong to these political parties – to advance democratization in the coming months and years.
The writer is a researcher at Al-Masry Studies and Information Center. The analysis was written in Arabic and was translated by Mohamed Mostafa