Egypt's liberal and secular opposition has rejected President Mohammed Morsi's call for dialogue, calling instead for early elections. Meanwhile his Islamist supporters are planning rallies in Cairo on Friday.
The opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) lashed out at President Morsi on Thursday, saying that he had failed to take responsibility for the country's deep political polarization and failed economy.
Morsi had given a two-and-a-half hour televised speech the day prior, in which he acknowledged making mistakes during his year in office. The Egyptian president also called for national reconciliation, saying that he was open to cooperating with the opposition on constitutional reform.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the NSF, told reporters in Cairo on Thursday that the opposition "remained determined to call for an early presidential election to bring about the objectives of the revolution, with social justice foremost among them."
"We are confident the Egyptian people will come out in their millions to hold peaceful demonstrations on all of Egypt's squares and streets to realize their aspirations and to put the January 25 revolution back on track," said ElBaradei, the former head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency. The revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak began on January 25, 2011.
The opposition group Tamarod (Arabic for Rebellion) has called for mass demonstrations on Sunday, June 30. The group has collected a petition with more than 15 million signatures calling for early presidential elections.
Egypt faces a growing economic crisis, with rising prices and unemployment, power cuts, fuel shortages and a lack of security. Cairo also faces a looming fiscal crisis, with the country's foreign exchange reserves dwindling to dangerously low levels.
Pro-Morsi rallies planned
Morsi's Islamist supporters are planning rallies outside of the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo's Nasr City on Friday. Their slogan is "legitimacy is a red line." They argue that Morsi derives his legitimacy from winning the first free presidential election in Egypt's history last year.
In his speech on Wednesday, Morsi blamed economic problems and corruption on Mubarak loyalists in the judiciary and bureaucracy.
With both camps planning rallies for the weekend, tensions have reached a fever pitch. The military has moved forces near Egypt's major cities, openly threatening to intervene if Morsi supporters and opponents cannot find a compromise and avoid bloodshed.
On Thursday, lethal clashes erupted in front of an office of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. One person died and 30 were injured in the incident, which occurred in the northern Nile Delta province of Sharqiya.
The owner of Egyptian television broadcaster CBC, Mohammed al-Amin, has been barred from leaving the country. CBC airs a popular satire show, hosted by Bassem Youssef, modeled after American comic John Stewart's the Daily Show. Youssef has himself been investigated for insulting the president and Islam.
Morsi singled out al-Amin in his speech on Wednesday, saying that the businessman "wanted the return of the old regime."
slk/rg (AP, AFP, Reuters)