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Egypt's relative calm not expected to last for long

By Mahmoud Fouly (Xinhua)

10:01, February 05, 2013

CAIRO, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- Egypt is now relatively and " cautiously" calm and may witness tumult in the following months after tens of people were killed and several hundreds others injured in clashes between security forces and protesters over the past few days, observers said.

Although Egypt looks calm with its public squares being quiet and traffic returning to normal, some analysts believe that it is "a calm before the storm."

"Although the situation looks stable, it is not stable for real, " Saeed Sadeq, a political sociology professor at the American University in Cairo, told Xinhua, citing the overwhelming protests across the country, the political tension dividing the Egyptian society as well as the economic recession.

"The year of 2013 will be tumultuous in Egypt," Sadeq warned.

On Saturday, the National Salvation Front (NSF), Egypt's main opposition bloc which had earlier agreed to participate in the national dialogue sponsored by President Mohamed Morsi, said it " completely sides with the people's calls to topple the authoritarian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood's control."

The NSF also said that it would not engage in the dialogue unless the recent bloodshed is stopped and investigated as the opposition was infuriated by a video of a protester being beaten up by central security forces' truncheons and accused Morsi of ordering a harsh crackdown on demonstrators.

Observers believe the withdrawal of the NSF has negatively affected its popularity.

"A recent survey showed that over 80 percent of the Egyptians are unhappy with the NSF," said Ahmed Qandil, a political expert at al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

"Egyptians now mistrust the political scene in general," Qandil told Xinhua, "So both the state leadership and the opposition must resort to talks to resolve the outstanding issues and boost their popularity."

Some protesters attempted Monday to break into police stations in Gharbiya governorate's city of Tanta, some 80 km away from the capital Cairo, over the death of a political activist.

Egypt's relative calm may not last for long, Qandil concluded, adding that "It all depends on the willingness of rival political forces to engage in real dialogue and reach consensus. Otherwise, bloody scene could be seen once again."

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