The Muslim Brotherhood's use of torture and street thugs is also hauntingly evocative of standard Mubarak regime practice. Following the Dec. 5 attack on protesters demonstrating before the presidential palace -- employing guns, knives, swords, and tear gas -- Morsy delivered a televised national address in which he claimed he had solid evidence, including confessions, that some 80 detained protesters were paid agents of Mubarak regime "remnants."
In fact, the detainees, who had been captured and tortured by Brotherhood thugs, were all cleared and released the next day by the district prosecutor. At that point, the Morsy-appointed prosecutor general punished the prosecutor by transferring him to a remote province -- triggering open rebellion in the prosecution service and forcing the prosecutor general to retract his decision. For his part, Morsy has yet to offer an apology or explanation for his wild accusations, which under the Egyptian legal code renders him liable for prosecution and a prison term for slander.
Freedom of expression and freedom to peacefully protest have also been under concerted attack by the new regime. The Brotherhood, rather than acting to guarantee the independence of the state-owned media, has sought to bring these outlets under its sway -- maintaining and even increasing their obsequiousness to the ruler of the moment and their nearly unmitigated lack of professionalism. The Brotherhood did so even as it acted to intimidate and strangle privately owned media: Its Salafi allies laid siege to Greater Cairo's Media City, home to most private TV stations, and called for the "purging" of the media, while the government launched a record number of cases against the president's critics in the media, most prominently liberal satirist Bassem Youssef -- Egypt's Jon Stewart.
Even the Brotherhood's single claim to democratic governance -- allowing free elections -- is now being subjected to increasing challenge. The constitutional referendum, the single poll held under Brotherhood rule, was tarnished by various recorded incidents of electoral rigging, including the barring of potential "no" voters from gaining access to polling stations.
The new parliamentary electoral law has also been tailored to perpetuate the Islamists' dominance of the legislative branch. The Brotherhood has gerrymandered Egypt's electoral system so that it is very far from one man, one vote: Under the new law, Qalyubia governorate, effectively a working-class suburb of Greater Cairo, has been allocated 18 parliamentary seats, while the Brotherhood-dominated Upper Egypt governorate of Sohag is allocated 30. The number of voters in Qalyubia exceeds the number in Sohag by 300,000.
There is no little irony in the fact that the only relatively free polls Egypt has known in decades might prove to have been those held under military rule.
And two years after a revolution whose equivalent of the French Revolution's liberté, égalité, fraternité was "bread, freedom, social justice," Egyptians find themselves governed by a regime deeply rooted in class privilege and pursuing the very same social and economic policies that favor the rich at the expense of the poor. Muslim Brotherhood leaders, not least the president, have continued to ignore demands for progressive taxation, a fair minimum wage, and the need for sweeping reform of the bloated, inefficient, and corruption-ridden bureaucracy.
The new-old regime's social intentions were made even starker by the one significant piece of economic legislation put forth by Morsy: An increase of the sales tax, which would have hit the poor and middle class the hardest, was stealthily passed in December and then announced a week later at 9 p.m. -- practically on the eve of the second round of voting on the constitutional referendum. It was then comically retracted a few hours later, around 2 a.m., after Morsy said he had "felt the pulse" of the masses, most of whose members were presumably asleep.
Meanwhile, basic public services are in a state of general collapse. The most recent evidence of this is the recurring railway disasters, which in the course of Morsy's presidency have claimed the lives of nearly 80 people, including more than 50 children, and caused the injury of hundreds. Public hospitals are nearly everywhere bare of the most basic medicines and equipment, including beds -- critical patients are made to lie on dirty, littered floors. Public education, ostensibly free, has in fact become almost prohibitively expensive for most Egyptian families, even as standards have hit rock bottom.