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Egypt's President Morsi Digs in as Tension Builds
President clings to power as protesters' deadline passes, army ultimatum looms
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi maintains his grip on state power Tuesday despite the mobilization of as many as 33 million to the streets demanding his ouster, marking the biggest street protests in Egypt's history.
In a statement released early Tuesday morning, Morsi hinted that he will rebuff the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ultimatum that he respond to the 'people's demands' and find a resolution by Wednesday. The vaguely-worded SCAF warning had threatened that Egypt's powerful military would impose its own 'road map' if Morsi does not meet the deadline, but it is not clear exactly what actions this would entail. In revelations exposed Tuesday, Reuters reports that SCAF's plan includes suspending the constitution and dissolving parliament.
Morsi has already surpassed the deadline set by the vast Tamarod, or "rebel," movement demanding his resignation by Tuesday. The Tamarod coalition, stemming in part from the 2005 Kefaya group that protested abuses during the Mubarak Administration, has collected more than 20 million signatureson a petition demanding a vote of no confidence in Morsi's rule and organized the protests that have sent millions into the streets since Sunday.
Morsi's political crisis appears to be deepening, with several prominent aids in his regime resigning, including the foreign minister and ministers of tourism, environment, investment and legal affairs. Meanwhile, Morsi's supporters say a SCAF takeover would amount to a coup.
There is no sign that the SCAF ultimatum is in tandem with the organizers who mobilized millions to the streets, and some raise questions about possible secret negotiations between SCAF and Muslim Brotherhood leadership. The National Salvation Front, which is part of the Tamarod rebel movement, released a statement Tuesday insisting that it does not support a military coup, and declaring that the mass protests uphold democracy:
Asking Morsi to resign is not against democratic procedures ... None of the revolution's demands were met, Morsi and the (Muslim Brotherhood) took the country in another direction that mainly reflected their desire to dominate the state, and did not build a democracy, or managed to improve the living standards of Egyptians and provide their basic needs.
When news of the SCAF ultimatum broke, many anti-Morsi protesters rejoiced, while others expressed concern about the military's intentions. Egypt's state-run Al Ahram reports:
Upon hearing the army's statement on Monday afternoon, anti-Morsi protesters arrayed in Tahrir Square and outside the presidential palace, along with those in the governorates, cheered in celebration. Army helicopters hovered over Tahrir Square, throwing flags on the crowds below as they did the day before.
...Many activists who frequent the squares, however, expressed dismay over the military's possible re-entry into Egyptian domestic politics.
Their concerns stem from the year and a half of military rule following Egypt's January 2011 revolution, which saw frequent clashes between protesters and army forces.
President Obama called Morsi Monday night and affirmed he still recognizes Morsi as Egypt's democratic leader while telling him to 'listen' to the people. Many activists, including anarchist organizer Mohammed Hassan Aazab, slammed Obama for supporting Morsi as millions demand his ouster.
Meanwhile, clashes throughout the mostly peaceful protests have left at least 16 dead and over 150 injured across Egypt, with the media reporting that more clashes could erupt Tuesday as Morsi's supporters, far outnumbered by Morsi's opponents, take to the streets.