Fatal clashes between Morsi supporters and opposition demonstrators in Cairo
Sporadic clashes erupted yesterday outside Egypt’s presidential palace between supporters and opponents of president Mohamed Morsi over his assumption of extraordinary powers and the scheduling of a referendum on a disputed draft of the new constitution.
Several thousand pro-Morsi demonstrators chanting “the people support the president’s decisions,” and, “yes to the constitution,” initially descended upon 300 anti-Morsi demonstrators camped in front of the palace.
In the absence of police protection, the campers were driven into side streets and their tents struck by fundamentalists armed with staves and stones. Then thousands of opposition demonstrators arrived and exchanged Molotov cocktails and flash bombs with fundamentalists until riot police appeared and attempted to separate the rival camps. More than 200 injuries were reported by the health ministry.
On Tuesday, thousands of opposition protesters rallied outside the palace, in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and in cities and towns across the country, cal- ling for an end to Mr Morsi’s power grab and the shelving of the draft constitution.
Essam El-Erian, deputy chairman of the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, said the protesters were “from the elite class, far away from the street” and argued that “the final word would be with the Egyptian people”, ie, the urban and rural poor who support the Brotherhood.
Violence had been predicted when the party and radical fundamentalist groups urged supporters to head to the palace to defend “the legitimacy” of the president although his opponents were set to stage fresh demonstrations at the location.
In a bid to restore calm, vice- president Mahmoud Mekki, a moderate fundamentalist, called for dialogue with the opposition on amendments to the draft constitution which would be put to referendum as planned but discussed by the new parliament elected early next year. “There must be consensus,” he said and argued that the demands of the opposition must be taken into account. He also said Mr Morsi had promised not to use the sweeping powers he has assumed. However, the opposition insists he must rescind his decrees, abort the draft constitution, and appoint another commission to write a new document that is “more reflective” of the popular will.
Both sides have announced duelling rallies for tomorrow.