Fears of political meltdown as thousands mass against Morsi

 

Cairo

Nearly two years after it became the insurrectionary hub which forced the downfall of a dictator, Tahrir Square was again transformed into an arena of political agitation yesterday – but this time it was against the Muslim Brotherhood and its elected president, Mohamed Morsi.

With fears mounting that the deeply divided country is on the verge of another political meltdown, tens of thousands of protesters marched on downtown Cairo to challenge the recent decree issued by Mr Morsi which grants him near limitless powers.

Last night ambulances lined side-streets around Tahrir Square in anticipation of an outbreak of violence.

Following a week in which three people have died and more than 400 have been injured during nationwide rioting, one paramedic told The Independent that hospital staff across the capital had been drafted in to work overtime.

Sporadic clashes broke out yesterday morning between protesters and security forces near the American embassy. Fighting continued through the day, and a 54-year-old man later died after inhaling tear gas.

By the afternoon, thousands of protesters had begun to file into Tahrir Square, many of them chanting for the downfall of the nizaam, or regime – the slogan of Egypt's uprising which was screamed to devastating effect against Mr Morsi's predecessor. Thousands more demonstrated around the country, including in Alexandria, Suez and Minya in Middle Egypt.

Although ostensibly a protest against Mr Morsi's presidential decree, yesterday's rally also bore the signs of being an emphatic rebuke to the very idea of Islamist rule. "I don't want to change the constitution," said 56-year-old Zain el-Abdeen. "I want Mohamed Morsi to fall."

Festooned above the circular lawn plaza in the centre of the square, an enormous banner read "Egypt for all of the Egyptians" – a reference to the fears of many anti-Islamists that a Muslim Brotherhood administration would govern only for the interests of its own members.

In an example of what many Egyptians fear the most – an ugly political split along religious lines which may even pave the way for a counter-revolution by the army or elements from the old regime – there were also signs calling for the downfall of the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide, Mohammed Badie.

"Mohamed Morsi has no vision," said Taiseer Fahmy, an Egyptian actress, as she sat inside her tent in the middle of Tahrir Square. "There is no plan from his government."

The 59-year-old, who heads the Equality and Development Party, said she was worried about the idea of theocratic rule. "Hosni Mubarak was corrupt, but Mohamed Morsi belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood and not to Egypt."

The decree issued by Morsi last Thursday has whipped up a firestorm in Egyptian politics. His opponents accused the new president – who this time last week was basking in near-universal praise for his role in the Gaza ceasefire – of turning himself into "Mubarak with a beard".

The nation's judges meanwhile, stung after being stripped of their constitutional oversight role, also staged a revolt. Last-ditch efforts to win them round appeared to have failed after a meeting between Mr Morsi and the judiciary produced no major concessions.

One blogger, who writes under The Big Pharaoh, speculated that the president was so buoyed by the praise from America that he felt empowered to charge forward with his decree.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Sport
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
voices
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
health Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries are at risk of tinnitus
News
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower