Huge numbers of Egyptian protesters demand president’s ouster

Posted on: 5:21 am, July 1, 2013, by , updated on: 05:25am, July 1, 2013

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy speaks to CNN in Cairo. (Credit: CNN)

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy speaks to CNN in Cairo. (Credit: CNN)

CAIRO (CNN) — Egyptians who helped overthrow a 29-year dictatorship in a widely hailed revolution have now given the country’s first democratically elected president one day to step down from office.

In a statement posted Monday on its official Facebook page, Tamarod (the “rebel” campaign”) demanded that if President Mohamed Morsy doesn’t leave office by Tuesday, the group will begin a civil disobedience movement, call for nationwide protests and march on the presidential palace, where Morsy’s administration is running affairs.

If the last few days have been any indication, Tamarod’s deadline will most likely be ignored.

Both sides — the anti-government demonstrators and Morsy’s supporters– have dug in their heels.

And the results have been deadly.

On Monday, protesters stormed the main headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the party that Morsy led before his election. Armed with Molotov cocktails, the mob set the office on fire, shouting, “The people have toppled the regime.”

At least 16 people were killed and more than 780 were wounded Sunday and Monday during the unrest in Egypt, the nation’s health minister said, according to the official Egypt News agency.

Dr. Mohammed Mustafa Hamid told the news agency that eight people alone were killed in clashes at the Muslim Brotherhood’s national headquarters in Cairo. All but 182 of the wounded have left the hospital after receiving treatment for their injuries.

On the one hand

Those calling for Morsy’s ouster say he has hijacked the gains made in the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak and has pushed aside moderate voices.

They say Morsy’s policies are to blame for a breakdown in law and order, for an economy that’s gone south, and for a gas shortage that has Egyptians waiting at the pumps for hours.

On the other

Those supporting the president say he is the people’s choice and refer to the 13 million votes he earned in elections held exactly a year ago Sunday. They say he inherited a broken system and should be given time to fix it.

“We’re not leaving, and the president is staying,” one supporter told CNN. “We believe in democracy. If people don’t like him, they can vote him out in three years.”

Deadly results

Periodically, the two sides have clashed and the results have been deadly — even before the Sunday clashes.

On Friday, Andrew Pochter, a 21-year-old American in Alexandria to teach children English, was stabbed to death while watching the demonstrations, his family said.

And the Muslim Brotherhood has lost four members to violence in recent days. The Islamist group was shunted aside under Mubarak but is now the most powerful political force in Egypt.

For his part, Morsy says he is ready for dialogue. But the gap between the two camps is wide and only getting wider.

Unclear road map

The demonstrators say they have collected 17 million signatures — roughly 4 million more than what won Morsy the presidency — and all of them call for Morsy to go.

The opposition is made up of various groups and loose coalitions, and not all anti-Morsy protesters agree with the road map the Tamarod campaign is advocating.

Some are loyal to the ousted Mubarak government, while others want the army to intervene.

The army variable

Last week, Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said the army would, if necessary, “prevent Egypt from slipping into a dark tunnel of civil unrest and killing, sectarianism and the collapse of state institutions.”

His remarks raised the specter of a return to the powerful role the military played in domestic politics under Mubarak.

“Egypt,” the government-run newspaper Al-Akhbar said, “is on the brink of a volcano.”