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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Life and Style
fashion
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

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches