CAIRO -- The demonstrations scheduled for later this week to mark the first anniversary of Mohammed Morsi’s ascension to Egypt’s presidency revolve around a single question: Which defines the will of the people, what happened at the ballot boxes a year ago or the growing anger today at what many think has been Morsi’s politically corrupt and incompetent leadership?
Morsi, his supporters and the Muslim Brotherhood say the people spoke when they voted last year, making Morsi the nation’s first democratically elected president. That makes the calls that he step down illegitimate, they say. The people can speak again three years from now, during the next election.
His growing number of opponents say the results of last year’s elections are no longer relevant. What matters now is the growing discontent about a flailing economy, a divided political system, collapsing security and what they charge is Morsi’s illegitimate power grab. Morsi now controls the legislature and has moved his backers into the judiciary.
The divisions will be on display this week as Morsi’s critics and his supporters gear up for demonstrations to mark the anniversary Saturday of his inauguration.
The supporters have summoned pro-government demonstrators to gather Thursday, with pro-Morsi Islamists using a Facebook page to declare “legitimacy is a red line.” Last week, supporters staged a rally of more than 100,000 people.
Anti-Morsi rallies are scheduled for Saturday, and shop owners are coordinating with their employees on shifts so they can keep businesses open while taking part in protests that might go on indefinitely, much like the ones in 2011 that led to the fall of then-President Hosni Mubarak.
“We want a president who feels with the people. We want security back. During Mubarak, there wasn’t money but at least there was security,” said Nasser Ali, 38, a taxi driver who plans to participate in the anti-Morsi rallies. “I used to allow my 22-year-old sister to stay out till 3 in the morning and I wasn’t scared. Now I am afraid if she is out till 10 p.m.”
Morsi himself will address the nation Wednesday. At a hastily arranged news conference Monday night, presidential spokesman Omar Amer said the speech would be important, though he offered no details. "Wednesday is not far away," he said.
There’s no constitutional basis for Morsi’s removal, and critics of those who are calling for his departure say they’re conducting themselves as undemocratically as they accuse Morsi of behaving.
The charge doesn’t deter Morsi’s detractors, however.
“So what if 1,000 of us die? There are 90 million of us,” said a fruit vendor who identified himself only as Gamel as he bought cigarettes in the upscale neighborhood of Zamalek. “I am prepared to die. Let my children live. Egypt is dying.”
Among the many criticisms of Morsi that opponents offer is the charge that he’s divided the country, pushing the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood, the secretive organization through which he became prominent, over that of Egypt’s many other constituencies.
They say he’s increasingly appointed Brotherhood members to key posts, and has shunned opponents and called them spies of foreign nations. He’s arrested critics, including satirist Bassem Youssef, for insulting the presidency. He’s increasingly appointed Islamist judges, and he’s often remained silent during crises involving the deaths of liberal activists while condemning the deaths of his supporters.