Perhaps Mohamed Morsi thought that a show of strength and resolve in a nationally-televised speech to his Egyptian subjects would impress them enough to stop protesting his “temporary” seizure of dictatorial power. If so, the President-turned-Pharaoh miscalculated — perhaps badly. After a defiant speech in which Morsi accused protesters of being Mubarakites, the streets again filled with angry Egyptians, who have begun to use the same chants about Morsi that they once used about Hosni Mubarak (via Instapundit):
An angry Mohammed Morsi refused Thursday to call off a referendum on a disputed constitution that has sparked Egypt’s worst political crisis in two years, drawing chants of “topple the regime!” from protesters who waved their shoes in contempt.
The Egyptian president’s uncompromising stand came a night after thousands of his supporters and opponents fought pitched battles outside his Cairo palace, leaving at least six dead and 700 injured.
Speaking in a nationally televised address, Morsi accused some in the opposition of serving remnants of Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian regime and vowed he would never tolerate anyone working for the overthrow of his “legitimate” government.
That brought shouts of “the people want to topple the regime!” from the crowd of 30,000 Morsi opponents — the same chant used in the protests that brought down Mubarak.
Morsi also invited the opposition to a “comprehensive and productive” dialogue starting Saturday at his presidential palace, but gave no sign that he might offer any meaningful concessions.
The opposition has already refused to engage Morsi unless he first rescinds decrees giving him nearly unrestricted powers and shelves the draft constitution hurriedly adopted by his Islamist allies in a marathon session last week.
The result? Cairo’s streets filled with protests again after Friday prayers:
Thousands of Egyptians took to the streets after Friday midday prayers in rival rallies and marches across Cairo, as the standoff deepened over what opponents call the Islamist president’s power grab, raising the specter of more violence.
The opposition has now formed an umbrella group, the National Salvation Front, to organize opposition to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. They have named former IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei as their leader, and ElBaradei blasted Morsi’s speech:
Speaking on the new umbrella group’s behalf, ElBaradei responded to Morsi’s speech in his own televised remarks, saying that Morsi’s government showed reluctance in acting to stop Wednesday night’s bloodshed outside the palace. He said this failure has eroded the government’s legitimacy and made it difficult for his opposition front to negotiate with the president.
ElBaradei said Morsi has not responded to the opposition group’s attempts to “rescue the country” and that the president had “closed the door for dialogue” by “ignoring the demands of the people.”
After Friday prayers, protesters began marching to the palace from several different directions.
The April 6 movement, which played a key role in sparking the uprising against Mubarak, called its supporters to gather at mosques in Cairo and the neighboring city of Giza to march to the palace. They termed Friday’s march a “red card” for Morsi, a reference to a football referee sending a player off the field for a serious violation.
The Muslim Brotherhood isn’t lying low, either:
Also on Friday morning, thousands of Brotherhood members gathered in Cairo outside the mosque of Al-Azhar, Egypt’s most respected Islamic institution, for the funeral of two members of the fundamentalist group who were killed during Wednesday’s clashes.
During the funeral, thousands Islamist mourners chanted, “with blood and soul, we redeem Islam,” pumping their fists in the air. “Egypt is Islamic, it will not be secular, it will not be liberal,” they chanted as they walked in a funeral procession that filled streets around Al-Azhar mosque.
This sounds like a recipe for a major street fight. That may force the Egyptian army into an uncomfortable choice sooner rather than later.