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Egypt's anti-president protests surpass expectations

By Marwa Yahya, Mahmoud Fouly (Xinhua)

15:50, July 01, 2013

CAIRO, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Egypt's ongoing nationwide mass protests against President Mohamed Morsi were expected to find echo in the streets, but the huge numbers of protesters surpassed all expectations.

On Sunday, the first anniversary of Morsi's rule, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians flooded the Mideast country's major city squares and streets around the presidential palace, urging an early presidential election, in the biggest wave of protests Egypt has witnessed since the 2011 upheaval that toppled ex-president Hosni Mubarak.

The anti-Morsi protesters across the country incomparably outnumbered the president's supporters who continued their sit-in for the third consecutive day at Rabia al-Adawiya Square in Cairo's Nasr City "to defend the legitimacy" of the embattled president.

"The anti-Morsi protests surpassed all expectations and overpowered the ability of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to defend Morsi's administration," Salah Salem, political science professor at Cairo University, told Xinhua.

Salem said that "such huge protests would not pass without something important happening," noting the protests reflected "public rage" against the president and his MB group.

Still, the political science professor disagreed with the opposition's demands of ousting Morsi and holding early presidential elections.

"This is an illegitimate and impractical demand because it would not only fail to resolve the crisis but would also create more problems," said Salem.

Salem argued that the current circumstances in Egypt do not allow the weakening of the presidency and that any incoming president would face overwhelming opposition in light of the ongoing "political and social division" that split the citizens in half.

"I am against the policies of the Brotherhood but I am also against ousting Morsi," the professor told Xinhua.

For his part, Makram Mohamed Ahmed, political analyst and former chief of a press syndicate, said that he did not expect such "a popular flood" of anti-Brotherhood masses that ranged between 8 million and 12 million protesters.

"No one can challenge such a flood of people united under one demand and one slogan," he continued, "so the MB group has to yield to the will of the people."

Ahmed said that the anti-Morsi protesters had various factors of success. "They are the young protesters of the 2011 uprising against the toppled ex-president Hosni Mubarak with the support of the expertise of politicians and opposition figures."

The senior journalist expressed the belief that the support of the police and the army to the protesters gave them more power, reassurance and chances for success.

"The police showed cooperation and solidarity with the protesters and the defense minister said earlier that the armed forces would support the will of the people," Ahmed explained, stressing the MB would be the weakest side of the political equation.

"The sit-in of thousands of Morsi's Islamist supporters is only meant to grant the president a kind of balance for negotiations with his rivals," Ahmed added, yet he expected the young protesters would not accept any compromise but Morsi's departure.

Ahmed Baan, political researcher at the Nile Center for Strategic Studies, said that an early presidential election would be the only option for Morsi to avoid escalation of protesters' demands or dragging the country into a civil war.

"The anti-Morsi throngs of protesters were a surprise that would confuse the MB and perplex their calculations," Baan told Xinhua.

Baan, also a dissident MB member, blamed Morsi's "poor performance" for the current political deadlock, describing the current anti-president protests as "the right step to correct the path of the 2011 uprising."

"The crowds realized that another year for the MB in power will make it even more difficult to change the ruling regime in case of further maladministration," he added, referring to the protests as "a new revolutionary wave."

He urged Morsi to immediately interact with the public demands by calling for early presidential elections to spare the country a dark tunnel of bloodshed amid division and polarization.

On Sunday, clashes between Morsi's opponents and proponents killed at least six people and injured over 600 across the country, while eight were killed in similar confrontations last week.

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