Egypt’s Islamist parties have signaled that they are in no mood to cave in to burgeoning protests that have been mounted for nearly a fortnight by a secularist coalition that is seeking the annulment of a draft constitution and scrapping of a decree that has armed President Mohamed Morsy with sweeping powers.
Late on Tuesday, after thousands of protesters fought pitched battles with the police outside the presidential palace in Cairo, an Islamist coalition urged Mr. Morsy to hang tough.
Ten Islamist groups issued a statement where they accused protesters of “sabotaging” the country by resorting to violence. The coalition demanded that the "legitimately elected president" should put an end to the violent protests to ensure security and stability.
"Non-peaceful protests are an offense to Egypt, but Egyptians will defend the legitimacy of the president and preserve the gains of our great revolution," the statement added.
Ahmad Omar, a health ministry spokesperson said that nearly 27 people were injured during the clashes between the anti-Morsy dissidents and police.
On Wednesday, it was clear that the Islamists had decided to back their tough statement with a demonstration of street power that they command. A spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement exhorting supporters to head for the presidential palace to express support. The call for a pro-Morsy rally has set the stage for an explosive clash with the president’s opponents, not all of whom have vacated the area after Tuesday evening’s encounter with the police.
Egypt crackdown targets top opposition figures
There were signs that the Islamists may be flirting dangerously with a plan to mount a witch-hunt in the wake of the protests. Prosecutor General Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah has proposed an investigation of a complaint which accuses former presidential candidates and politicians of spying and plotting the overthrow of the government.
Hamed Sadeq, a lawyer, in his complaint has accused Amr Moussa, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Mohamed ElBaradei-all former presidential candidates-of espionage and sedition. All three are facing allegations of participating in a “Zionist plot” of fomenting internal crises in Egypt, following Mr. Moussa’s meeting with Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister.
Mr. Morsy’s critics point out that the protesters have been miffed by the supposed lacunas in the draft constitution. They say that the proposed national charter does not guarantee insulation of individual liberties from religious intervention-a hot button issue in a society where, for instance, large number of men and women are opposed to the imposition of a dress code. Some Islamist groups also oppose open sale of alcohol in Egypt, which for many may be necessary to keep the foreign tourist traffic going. Mr. Morsy’s opponents also allege that the draft constitution concentrates too many powers in the President.
Some other criticise it for being weak in protecting freedom of expression. Eleven newspapers did not hit the stands on as mark of protest, and at least three private television channels have decided to go off air on Wednesday.
The deluge of protests mainly in Cairo, but also other cities including Alexandria and Suez, seemed to conceal a backup plan that the protesters may have in mind. Analysts point out that many among the protest leadership realise that it may not be possible to force Mr. Morsy to backtrack completely. However, they do hope that by keeping up high voltage protests, they could diminish the margin of victory for the presidential camp when the draft constitution is put to referendum on December 15 -- a prelude to parliamentary elections two months away.