Egypt's Mubarak regime signals harsh tactics against opponents
President Mubarak gave his first public address since March in Cairo yesterday in a bid to thwart a possible merger between disgruntled workers and the political opposition amid increasing uncertainty about who will succeed the 82-year-old leader.
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The potential for labor unions to join forces with the political opposition is something that has long worried regime strategists and they've worked hard in recent years to prevent a political alliance with arrests and intimidation. On Thursday, Mr. Mubarak seemed to address the prospect of a labor-opposition alliance when he gave his first public address since having surgery in Germany two months ago.
“To those who raise slogans and content themselves with posturing: this is not enough to gain the trust of the people,” he said, speaking to union leaders in Cairo. “In this delicate period there can be no room for those who confuse change with chaos.”
The speech was seen here and abroad as a direct message to protesters.
“It is the first time that Mubarak was very tough when he spoke about the opposition, because he is afraid of any kind of cooperation between the opposition, the political parties, and the workers movements,” says Emad Gad, political analyst at Al Ahram, a government-funded think tank in Cairo. “The government ... will do what they can to prevent a scenario like that.
While the government's tactical efforts against opponents – whether the largely secular Kifaya movement that erupted a few years ago or the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's most popular opposition group – have been broadly effective, growing uncertainty about who will succeed Mr. Mubarak has reenergized the political opposition.
Earlier in the week, political protesters called for an end to the 30-year-old emergency law, which gives the government broad powers to suppress political dissent and detain citizens without trial and is expected to be renewed this month. Labor protesters, meanwhile, called for a higher national minimum wage.