Egyptian Protest 2012

An opposition rally outside the presidential palace in Cairo on Friday, 7 December, 2012, at 7pm. Screen grab from ONTV.

'Showdown' Imminent as Rival Protests Fill Cairo Streets

ElBaradei: Morsi has 'closed the door for dialogue' by 'ignoring the demands of the people'


Crowds swelled into the hundreds of thousands late Friday night outside of Egypt's presidential palace in Cairo to pressure President Mohamed Morsi to reverse his recent presidential decree and constitutional referendum, despite an announcement Friday that the referendum date will now likely be delayed.

Egypt's vice-president Mahmoud Mekki read a presidential statement on Friday evening stating that President Mohamed Morsi is ready to postpone the referendum, but said the opposition "must provide guarantees that there will not be appeals [against the delay] in courts." They have, however, already postponed the start of early voting on the referendum.

According to Ahram Online anti-Morsi protesters have placed barriers in the busy street leading to the presidential palace and plan to orchestrate a large sit-in there.

Protesters broke down the barbed wire barricades surrounding the presidential palace at one point on Friday but have not breached the palace despite the immense numbers. The crowds chanted, "The people want the downfall of the regime" and "Leave, leave!"

A dialogue meeting between Morsi and oppositional leaders was said to still be planned for Saturday, despite the withdrawal of a newly formed opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, which includes leading anti-Morsi figure Mohamed ElBaradei.

ElBaradei gave a televised address Friday night asking Morsi to revoke his self-ordained sweeping powers, which sparked protests almost two weeks ago, and to delay the constitutional referendum until Egyptians reach a consensual constitution.

"I hope Dr. Morsi has listened to the people's voice in the last two days [and] to ease current tension."

"I bet on [Morsi's] patriotism...and if he takes [these two] steps, Egyptians will respond and we can move from this angry phase to a dialogue."

Morsi supporters who have also demonstrated throughout the week in large numbers maintained a large presence in Cairo throughout the day.

The Muslim Brotherhood's official English-language Twitter feed @Ikhwanweb tweeted Friday night: "The Egyptian ppl will defend their democratic choice & will not let opposition to derail path to full democracy thru intimidation & violence."



Thousands of Egyptians filled the streets of Cairo following Friday's midday prayers as pro- and anti-Morsi marches and rallies swelled into the night, adding to fears that the country's turmoil will only get worse in the coming days. Reports are surfacing that anti-Morsi protesters who have amassed outside the presidential place for the fourth night in a row have broken through the barricades.

Calls for president Mohamed Morsi to step down were galvanized Thursday night when Morsi gave a televised speech refusing to concede both the constitutional referendum called for December 15th and his sweeping presidential decree--the main points of contention of the burgeoning anti-Morsi uprising.

Egypt has experienced extreme polarization and oppositional turmoil for almost two weeks with pro- and anti-Morsi protesters clashing on several occasions across the country. At least six people have died and hundreds have been wounded.

Protests are taking place in locations across Cairo including the presidential palace, Tahrir Square and a pro-Morsi protest in Al-Azhar along the Nile south of the capital, as well as in Alexandria and other major cities around the country.

A newly formed opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, including leading anti-Morsi figures Mohamed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabahi, have rejected Morsi's request for a dialogue on Saturday, which he had offered only after refusing concessions.

ElBaradei said the group was against dialogue based on "arm-twisting", adding that the president had "closed the door for dialogue" by "ignoring the demands of the people."

Meanwhile thousands of Morsi supporters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood gathered outside the mosque of Al-Azhar for the funeral of two members of the group who were killed during Wednesday's clashes with anti-Morsi demonstrators.

Gamal Abdel Gawad, a political analyst, told Al-Jazeera on Friday that the situation will only get worse in the coming days.

"The presidential speech did not provide any serious way out," he said.

"There will be large protests today, and in the coming days. The call for dialogue will not be enough to defuse this crisis."

"There will be some sort of a showdown between the Muslim Brotherhood and the opposition."

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