200K Egyptians Flood Tahrir Square Demanding Morsi Quit

Thousands Around the Country Joined in the Cry

Getty Images

By Reuters

Published June 30, 2013.

(page 3 of 3)

If that became the norm, he said, “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”.

Liberal leaders say nearly half the voting population - 22 million people - has signed a petition calling for new elections, although there is no obvious challenger to Mursi.

The opposition, fractious and defeated in a series of ballots last year, hope that by putting millions on the streets they can force Mursi to relent and hand over to a technocrat administration that can organise new elections.

ARMY ROLE

Religious authorities have warned of “civil war”. The army insists it will respect the “will of the people”, though the two sides have opposing views of what that means.

Islamists interpret that to mean army support for their election victories. Opponents believe that the army may heed the popular will as expressed on the streets, as it did in early 2011 when the generals decided Mubarak’s time was up.

Having staged shows of force earlier this month, the Brotherhood has not called on supporters to go out on Sunday.

Among the Islamists in Cairo, Ahmed Hosny, 37, said: “I came here to say, ‘We are with you Mursi, with the legitimate order and against the thugs’.

“This is our revolution and no one will take it from us.”

At Tahrir Square, banners ranged from “The Revolution Goes On”, “Out, Out Like Mubarak” to “Obama Backs Terrorism” - a reference to liberal anger at U.S. support for Mursi’s legitimacy and criticism of protests as bad for the economy.

“I am here to bring down Mursi and the Brotherhood,” said Ahmed Ali al-Badri, a feed merchant in a white robe. “Just look at this country. It’s gone backwards for 20 years. There’s no diesel, gasoline, electricity. Life is just too expensive.”

The army, half a million strong and financed by Washington since it backed a peace treaty with Israel three decades ago, says it has deployed to protect key installations.

Among these is the Suez Canal. Cities along the waterway vital to global trade are bastions of anti-government sentiment. A bomb killed a protester in Port Said on Friday. A police general was gunned down in Sinai, close to the Israeli border.

There are some similarities with Turkey, where an Islamist prime minister with a strong electoral mandate was confronted in the streets by angry secularists this month. But Egypt is much poorer, its economy is crumbling rather than booming and its new democracy was born in a revolution just two years ago.

For many Egyptians, all the turmoil since 2011 has just made life harder. Standing by his lonely barrow at an eerily quiet downtown Cairo street market, 23-year-old Zeeka was afraid more violence was coming.

“We’re not for one side or the other,” he said. “What’s happening now in Egypt is shameful. There is no work, thugs are everywhere … I won’t go out to any protest.

“It’s nothing to do with me. I’m the tomato guy.”



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