Huge protests are expected in the next few days – Friday, by Morsi’s supporters, and Sunday by his detractors.
But violent demonstrations already were underway before Morsi spoke. At least two people were killed and nearly 200 were injured in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura in protests.
How the next several days will play out is anyone’s guess. There is no mechanism for Morsi’s removal, and his supporters say Egypt’s moment of accountability happened a year ago, when he became the nation’s first democratically elected president. Those who oppose him can speak again three years from now during the next presidential election, they say.
Opponents, however, are demanding that Morsi step down. They say Sunday’s scheduled protests count as a referendum on his rule. Egypt cannot wait three more years, they say. Some have called for a military takeover; others want the head of the High Constitutional Court to govern until presidential elections can be held again. There is a growing chorus for change of any kind.
“Only the military is strong enough to lead this country,” said trucker Mohammed Saad, 53, during the 21st hour of his wait for gasoline.
Abdel-Fattah el Sissi, the defense minster and commander of the armed forces appointed by Morsi in August, offered an ominous speech Saturday, saying his forces would intervene if there was “uncontrollable conflict,” no matter which side was responsible. The military controlled the country between Mubarak’s ouster and Morsi’s presidency but has suggested it is reticent to do so again. Sissi’s simple short speech, in local dialect, was a sharp contrast to Morsi’s prolonged lecture in formal Arabic.
Morsi won the presidency with 52 percent of the vote, and early on his popularity rose as high as 74 percent. But since then, the economy has been flailing and Morsi has been unwilling or unable to pacify his opposition. Morsi’s approval numbers now hover around 25 percent, similar to Mubarak’s figures in the months before the 2011 uprising.
To be sure, there will be thousands in the streets in support of Morsi during Friday’s planned demonstrations, many galvanized by the Muslim Brotherhood. At the same time, opponents already have begun erecting tents around the country in what many believe will be a days-long campaign of protests, much like the 18 days in 2011 that led to Mubarak’s ouster.
McClatchy special correspondent Amina Ismail in Cairo contributed to this report.