CAIRO, Dec 8, 2012 (AFP)
CAIRO, Dec 8, 2012 (AFP)
The streets of Cairo were calm early Saturday after a huge but peaceful protest overnight against President Mohamed Morsi, who has greatly expanded his powers and is pushing for disputed constitutional reform.
More than 100 demonstrators who had slept in tents or a nearby mosque were camped out in front of the presidential palace, while soldiers manned barbed wire barricades on roads to the square and tanks stood by.
Overnight, more than 10,000 people had filled the square for an hours-long demonstration calling for Morsi to step down.
Protesters daubed walls with graffiti and cartoons. One caricature portrayed Morsi with blood on his mouth, another depicted the president as a pharaoh. They were accompanied by slogans demanding: “Leave” and: “No to the Brotherhood,” in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood which backed Morsi for the presidency.
The hard-core protesters who spent the night said they were determined to oppose Morsi all the way.
“I’m ready to die. All these guys are ready to die. I don’t want violence but if they try to oppress us, there has to be a stand,” said Mustafa el-Tabbal, 27.
He admitted though, that “there has to be some dialogue” between Morsi and the opposition before a planned December 15 referendum on a new constitution drafted by a panel dominated by Morsi’s Islamist allies.
Although the scene outside the palace was peaceful, an undercurrent of tension remained after bloody scenes on Wednesday, when pro- and anti-Morsi protesters clashed, leaving seven people dead and more tha 640 hurt.
Egypt’s mainly secular opposition is against a decree Morsi issued two weeks ago giving him sweeping new powers free from judicial review. They also oppose the draft constitution, which they see as weakening their human and political rights in favour of a system edging towards Islamic law.
Demands for the decree and referendum to be dropped have hardened into a call for Morsi to go altogether after the president gave a defiant speech on Thursday ceding no ground.
The resulting scenes recalled the uprising that toppled veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak early last year.
Analysts say that if the referendum goes ahead, the new charter will likely be approved because of the still strong support of many Egyptians for Morsi and the Brotherhood’s efficency at getting its members out to vote.
But the resulting political polarisation could have a serious impact on the economy which is heavily dependent on foreign investment and tourism.