President Mohamed Mursi, facing mounting pressure to step down, said Egypt’s turmoil is threatening to paralyze the state and accused his opponents of aligning themselves with “enemies of the revolution.”
In a 2 1/2-hour speech before planned nationwide rallies on June 30 seeking to end his rule, Mursi admitted making mistakes though he blamed the nation’s crisis on an opposition that has rejected his calls for talks. Clashes before the speech between his supporters and opponents in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura killed one person, according to the health ministry. In Cairo’s Tahrir Square, protesters chanted “Leave, leave” as they watched the Islamist leader’s address.
“Polarization has reached a state that endangers our nascent democratic experience and threatens chaos,” Mursi said in the speech that ended after midnight. “I took power at a difficult time -- at times I was right, at times I was wrong.” Mistakes must be corrected, he said.
Mursi is facing what could be the biggest threat to his one-year rule as his opponents, who accuse him of seeking to consolidate power while failing to revive the economy, plan to take to the streets to force an early presidential election. The military, whose leaders ruled Egypt since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952 until the 2011 uprising, said it won’t stand idle while the country slides into conflict.
Political unrest during Mursi’s tenure has deepened Egypt’s economic crisis, with fuel shortages across the country leading to traffic jams and long lines at gasoline stations. Economic growth is trapped in the worst slowdown in two decades and the risk of default on sovereign dollar debt is at a record high.
To counter the opposition rally, Islamists are planning demonstrations on June 28 to defend Mursi, who was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood before becoming the country’s first democratically-elected president.
“I understand opposition disagreements but I cannot accept the opposition taking part inadvertently in reversing the revolt, aligning itself with enemies of the revolution,” Mursi said. “Our hands are extended” to start a dialog, he said. Opposition leaders rejected the offer.
“The speech is detached from reality,” former presidential candidate Khaled Ali said on Twitter. Mursi “is not aware of the level of popular anger against him. Every single word that came in that speech proves that revolt against this tyrant regime is a national duty.”
Defense Minister Abdelfatah Al-Seesi said this week the military is prepared to intervene to stop Egypt plunging into a “dark tunnel.” There is no rift between the presidency and the armed forces, Mursi said.
The president urged the Supreme Constitutional Court to expedite its review of Egypt’s election law so the country can vote in a new parliament and speed up reforms. He also said he will form a committee that includes all parties to consider constitutional amendments. The opposition has said the constitution favors Islamists and infringes on rights.
“Mursi comes up today to form a constitutional amendments committee,” Mahmoud Badr, a spokesman of Tamarod, or Rebellion, campaign said. “We say it’s too late.”
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