Despite keeping a low profile during the April 6 and May 4 general strikes, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) denounced the recent price hikes that were approved by the People’s Assembly (PA) this week, in a press conference Wednesday.
On Monday, the PA had approved a bill that will raise the price of fuel and make cigarettes more expensive, to compensate for the 30 percent increase in public sector wage promised by President Hosni Mubarak.
Two days later, the MB called on different political and national groups to take immediate action aimed at pressuring the government into revoking its decision and appealed to the government to find alternative sources to pay off the wage boost.
The group suggested the government take money from the “thieves and officials who were charged with fraud and stole from the public’s money instead of from the poor citizens.”
The group’s supreme guide, Mohamed Mahdy Akef warned that increasing fuel prices will negatively affect the public because they won’t be able to afford it.
Akef added that increasing the prices a day after promising an increase in wages is “deceitful.”
The group also warned the government that the public’s reaction to the price hikes might be drastic, and that more protests are expected in the coming period.
Brotherhood MPs said the new price hikes came as a surprise to the PA’s independent and opposition members.
Hamdy Hassan, PA member affiliated with the MB said in a press conference that was conducted on Monday that the new law was discretely discussed among National Democratic Party members, and was not discussed beforehand inside the PA.
Saad Al-Katatny, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc, referred to the day when the decision to increase the prices was taken as a “black day.”
The MB’s participation in the May 4 strike – which was considered a flop especially when compared to the empty streets of April 6 strike – raised questions regarding the extent of their influence and power.
Earlier last week, Akef had told Daily News Egypt that the MB “are against the general policies that the government is currently adopting … and that the group supports the society’s positive reaction against the sufferings that it is going through.”
Akef added that the MB responded to the public’s calls with its members not going to work on May 4 expect for those who occupy jobs that the public health, exams or the government’s essential resources depend on.
The group had announced earlier that it will participate in any protest called for by opposition forces under four conditions.
“We will not participate in any protest unless those four conditions are met: there is agreement among all the political forces on the protest; there is a unified agenda; a specific time, and the results of the protest are known in advance,” said Al-Katatny.
“This will guarantee the success of any national strike without chaos or problems,” he said.
On the other hand, Essam El-Arian, a prominent MB member, said that “the group’s absence from the April 6 protest led to its success.”
In a statement sent to Daily News Egypt, El-Arian added that the April 6 protest succeeded because it was not affiliated with a certain group or political force and it was up to the country’s youth to express their opinion.
Khalil Al-Anani, an expert on political Islam, told Daily News Egypt in a previous interview that the group’s announced conditions that “cannot be practically implemented … will enhance their image in public opinion, which suffered due to their absence in protests.”
Al-Anani joined other analysts who criticized the group’s lack of support of smaller lobby groups like the university professors, describing their stance as “negative.”
“This attitude created a gap between the group and the public,” Al-Anani said, adding that “they have been focusing mainly on their internal problems, which drove them away from participating with the public and sharing their problems