Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
The opposition believes that with sheer numbers in the street, it can pressure Morsi to step down – perhaps with the added weight of the powerful military if it signals the president should go.
"Today is the Brotherhood's last day in power," said Suliman Mohammed, a manager of a seafood company who was protesting at Tahrir, where crowds neared 100,000 by early afternoon.
"I came here today because Morsi did not accomplish any of the (2011) revolution's goals. I don't need anything for myself, but the needs of the poor were not met."
Another Tahrir protester, 21-year-old Mohammed Abdel-Salam, said he came out because he wanted early presidential elections. "If he is so sure of his popularity why doesn't he want to organize early elections? If he wins it, we will tell the opposition to shut up."
Underlining the potential for deadly violence, a flurry of police reports on Sunday spoke of the seizure of firearms, explosives and even artillery shells in various locations of the country, including Alexandria and the outskirts of Cairo. Sunday afternoon, two offices belonging to the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, were attacked and ransacked by protesters in the city of Bani Suef, south of Cairo.
In an interview published Sunday in The Guardian, Morsi – who has three years left in his term – said he had no plans to meet the protesters' demand for an early presidential election.
"If we changed someone in office who (was elected) according to constitutional legitimacy – well, there will (be) people or opponents opposing the new president too, and a week or a month later, they will ask him to step down," Morsi told the British daily.
"There is no room for any talk against this constitutional legitimacy," he said.
Traffic in Cairo's normally clogged streets was light at midday as many residents chose to stay home for fear of violence or a wave of crime similar to the one that swept Egypt during the 18-day, anti-Mubarak uprising. Banks were closing early and most government departments were either closed for the day or were thinly staffed. Most schools and colleges are already closed for the summer holidays.
The opposition protests emerge from a petition campaign by a youth activist group known as Tamarod, Arabic for "Rebel." For several months, the group has been collecting signatures on a call for Morsi to step down.
On Saturday the group announced it had more than 22 million signatures – proof, it claims, that a broad sector of the public no longer wants Morsi in office.
It was not possible to verify the claim. If true, it would be nearly twice the around 13 million people who voted for Morsi in last year's presidential run-off election, which he won with around 52 percent of the vote. Tamarod organizers said they discarded about 100,000 signed forms because they were duplicates.
Morsi's supporters have questioned the authenticity and validity of the signatures, but have produced no evidence of fraud.
Adding to his troubles, eight lawmakers from the country's interim legislature announced their resignation Saturday to protest Morsi's policies. The 270-seat chamber was elected early last year by less than 10 percent of Egypt's eligible voters, and is dominated by Islamists.
A legal adviser to Morsi also announced his resignation late Saturday in protest of what he said was Morsi's insult of judges in his latest speech on Wednesday.
A week ago, with the public sense of worry growing over the upcoming confrontation, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi last week gave the president and his opponents a week to reach a compromise. He warned that the military would intervene to prevent the nation from entering a "dark tunnel."
Army troops backed by armored vehicles were deployed Sunday in some of Cairo's suburbs, with soldiers, some in combat gear, stood at traffic lights and major intersections. Army helicopters flew over Cairo on several occasions on Sunday, adding to the day's sense of foreboding. The aircraft were loudly cheered every time they flew over Tahrir.
Morsi had called for national reconciliation talks in a Wednesday speech but offered no specifics. Opposition leaders dismissed the call as cosmetics.
Asked by The Guardian whether he was confident that the army would not intervene if the country becomes ungovernable, Morsi replied, "Very."
The Egyptian leader, however, said he did not know in advance of el-Sissi's comments last week.