“Some say that street action will produce better results than elections,” she said. “To be honest, my government and I are deeply skeptical.”
Perhaps the most incredible sight, however, was the appearance in Tahrir Square of protesters carrying photos of Mubarak, nearly two and a half years after Tahrir was the rallying place for protesters demanding Mubarak’s ouster.
With such uncertainty about what should replace Morsi, opponents who had once opposed both military rule and Mubarak appeared to be mired in the contradiction of change, no matter the cost. At the Ministry of Defense, for example, they burned a large handmade Israeli flag and called for Egypt’s army to take control again, even as the armed forces have enjoyed good relations with Israel.
The protesters said only the military could bring stability and fulfill the dreams of the 2011 uprising that led to Mubarak’s ouster. Forgotten, apparently, was that during the year a military council governed before Morsi came to power in a democratic election, there were press restrictions, demands for elections and charges of military brutality.
On Friday, protesters carried military officers on their shoulders and resurrected the chants of the 2011 uprising. “The people and the army are one hand,” they screamed over and over again.
“The army is stronger than the Brotherhood,” said factory worker Asharf Berri, 40, referring to the once secretive Muslim Brotherhood, the formerly outlawed organization through which Morsi rose to prominence. “And if the army doesn’t take over, Morsi won’t leave.”
“We need the military to rule for a year and half or so until we can have elections,” Berri said.
What if Morsi wins again?
“Impossible!” shouted Faraj el Alfy, 65, of Cairo.
Who could replace Morsi? Neither Berri nor Alfy could say. “The new always has something good to offer,” Alfy explained.
Tawfik Okasha, an Egyptian TV commentator who is often compared to Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly, has been a vocal supporter of a military takeover. Outside the Ministry of Defense, protesters chanted his praises and said he was under attack by the Morsi government. Some even suggested Okasha could lead the nation.
Still, not everyone was a Morsi detractors.
At a pro-Morsi rally in the Cairo district of Nasr City, the strength of the Brotherhood’s grassroots organization was clear.
Women donned crisp white sunhats that featured a depiction of Morsi. The men, even as they said they did not want a fight, were prepared for battle, unwrapping newly purchased wrestling headgear and elbow and knee pads. Many carried clubs – chair legs, tree branches, two-by-fours – in case of clashes. A large banner depicting the deaths of four purported supporters in the past few days hung over the stage where, one after another, religious leaders spoke on behalf of Morsi.
“Islam, Islam, we will defend you with our souls and blood,” was among the chants.
But the most common was the one word that summed up their message: “Legitimacy.”
For them, Morsi is duly elected and must be given the time to resolve Egypt’s many problems. They reject the idea of a military takeover, or of forcing Morsi from power.
“We had elections. If you don’t like Morsi, vote in three years,” said Ibrahim el Shikh, 33, a computer science engineer who was among the thousands at the rally. Morsi’s opponents “have personal interests,” he said. “They want the chair,” a reference to power.
And has Morsi been a good president so far?
“I will give you my opinion of him after four years,” he said.