As protests escalate in Egypt, Morsi's opponents try to force his exitby Rachel Aspden / December 6, 2012 / Leave a comment
On Tuesday night, trails of tear gas curled over the tens of thousands of protesters surrounding Egypt’s presidential palace. “No to Islamic dictatorship,” “leave, Morsi, leave,” the crowd chanted. As security forces withdrew, protesters swarmed forward, covering the walls of the palace in revolutionary slogans and graffiti: “By order of the revolution, consigned to the dustbin of history,” read one. With the protest escalating, President Mohamed Morsi hurriedly left the palace by a back door—an exit with echoes, his opponents hoped, of Hosni Mubarak’s rushed departure almost two years earlier.
In the 48 hours since, at least six have been killed and over 700 injured in clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters outside the palace. Five of Morsi’s advisers have resigned (in addition to the three that left last week) and tanks have moved into the surrounding streets—though the army has been careful to declare its political neutrality. Numbers on the streets have matched those reached on 27th November, when over 100,000 protesters packed Tahrir Square—the biggest protests since Mubarak stood down. Is this, as Morsi’s opponents claim, a second Egyptian revolution?
Morsi’s recent moves to consolidate control of Egypt’s political transition have violently divided a country already polarised into Islamist (Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi) and non-Islamist camps. A declaration issued on 22nd November granted the president sweeping powers to “protect the revolution” and set his decisions above the reach of the law. A week later, a draft constitution was approved in a marathon 16-hour session by the Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly. It will now be put to a referendum on 15th December, a vote that the Brotherhood, with its superior organisation and reach beyond Egypt’s urban centres, has every chance of winning.
The fallout from these events has revealed a deep rift over the legacy of the 2011 revolution. Morsi and his supporters believe they are dismantling the “deep state” created by years of authoritarian rule, and dismiss protests as the actions of “regime remnants” seeking to reverse the gains of 2011. From this perspective, Islamist parties are heroic liberators battling persecution from their old enemies. “The Muslim Brothers are victims of repeated acts of humiliation, violence and even murder,” claimed the Freedom and Justice Party, the group’s political wing, in a statement. Perhaps…