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Public Approval of Egyptian President Cratering Amid Growing Unrest

Public approval of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi hit an all-time low in March, though the electoral consequences of his unpopularity are unclear. The Muslim-Brotherhood linked president has only a 47 percent approval rating — alongside 45 percent disapproval — but the opposition is so fractured that he would handily win any new election:

However, the results also demonstrated that there is no viable alternative to Morsi and that he still would gain the majority of support, as 37% said they would vote for him if new elections were held. Only 8% said they would back the previous second place candidate, Ahmed Shafiq.

Other potential candidates would receive minimal support, the poll showed. Mohamed ElBaradei, a leader in the National Salvation Front, a coalition of opposition parties, had only 1% approval, the same amount registered by the former president, Hosni Mubarak. The survey found 60% of Egyptians do not support the NSF.

Another significant finding was that out of those who said they would not vote for Morsi in new elections, two-thirds did not know whom they would vote for instead.

Still, the figures represent a dramatic drop from the 78 percent approval rating Morsi enjoyed shortly after his first 100 days in office, and are likely to dip further. The poll was taken before this month’s uptick in sectarian violence, which has left at least 6 people dead and almost 100 injured. Egypt’s Coptic Pope this week leveled a rare — and blistering — public attack following the weekend’s clashes:

“Pope Tawadros levels harsh criticism against President Morsi: He failed to protect the Coptic church from an unprecedented attack,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, which calls the pope’s statements “a historic first, unknown to the relations between church and state in Egypt.”… Commenting on clashes between Copts and Muslims across from the St. Marks Church in Cairo earlier this week, Tawadros told On TV channel on Tuesday that “[Morsi’s] neglect and incompetence in dealing with the crisis are very clear.” He added that expressing dismay with the events is not enough, and decisive action must be taken by the state.

The Morsi government now finds itself in a kind of catch-22 of its own making. Rather than using the high popularity Morsi enjoyed during his first 100 days to push through badly needed economic reforms and stabilize Egypt’s economy, the president and his allies launched a series of power grabs and pushed through a controversial new constitution grounded in Islamic law. Subsequent weeks and months saw waves of political unrest driven both by unresolved economic instability and by popular dissatisfaction over Morsi’s political moves. Cairo now finds itself in a position of needing a still-expanding IMF loan to stave off an economic collapse, but is unwilling to meet the austerity preconditions demanded by the IMF lest they fuel further unrest.

The government can’t address its financial insolvency without worsening political unrest, and it can’t address political unrest without worsening its financial status.

Qatar today stepped in with a commitment to purchase $3 billion worth of bonds from Egypt, but the measure will likely prove inadequate if unaccompanied by additional reforms.

[Photo: JewishNewsOnes / YouTube]