If one good thing can be said of Egypt’s frequent power outages over the past week, it’s how indiscriminately they’ve affected all sectors and levels of society — not even high profile government ceremonies are being spared. The interruption of the swearing in of the Constitutional Court with an electric outage on Thursday could not have made the scope of the mounting problem more plain.
A video of the mishap shows President Mohammed Morsi and members of the court standing for the national anthem, which suddenly fades out as the lights quickly flicker off. (The added irony of the disruption coinciding with the part of the anthem that goes, ‘Egypt! O mother of all lands/you are my hope and my ambition,’ should also be noted).
The increasingly frequent power cuts are part of a government effort to conserve energy during Egypt’s summer months in the midst of an ongoing fuel shortage, a product of the country’s dire economic situation. A new campaign launched by Egyptian activists aims to protest the outages by urging citizens to withhold payments on electric bills, though some activists are also taking to the streets to voice their anger.
The Morsi government is doing its best to defend the handling of the country’s multiplying problems. However, their message has been literally overshadowed by the power issue, something Supply Minister Bassem Ouda discovered first hand during a press conference this week. His argument for the many recent improvements made in Egypt by the government was also interrupted by a power outage. After about a minute of confusion, Ouda plowed through with his message in the dark. An apt metaphor for the governing woes of his Muslim Brotherhood party if there ever was one.