Egypt: Crowds at Presidential Palace Break through Barbed Wire, President offers Dialogue

On Saturday morning, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood held a news conference in which its leader, Muhammad Badie, insisted that the so-called opposition in Egypt is nothing more than criminals and saboteurs and condemned the security forces for allowing the burning of Muslim Brotherhood HQ in Cairo. He complained that an attempt had been made to burn the offices of the newspaper of the ruling Freedom and Justice Party (the civil wing of the Muslim Brotherhood). He read out the names of the Muslim Brothers he said were killed in the clashes between the Brotherhood and the opposition.

Many Egyptians were shocked at the militancy of the Brotherhood supporters on Wednesday when they intervened at the presidential palace, and many are convinced that President Muhammad Morsi is taking hard line, authoritarian and inflexible positions on orders from Supreme Guide Badie and his “Office of Pious Counsel”

On Friday, Leftist and liberal youth had riposted at the presidential palace in Heliopolis, coming back in tens of thousands to the square in front of the presidential place in Heliopolis. They broke through barbed wire, and the police appear to have let them do so. They returned after having been expelled from the area by Muslim Brotherhood cadres on Wednesday.

The general unwillingness of many of the police and army to intervene actively in favor of President Morsi appears to have put a fright into him and his administration. After earlier being completely inflexible in the face of the protests, they are now hinting that the referendum on the constitution could be postponed past the December 15 date initially designated by Morsi.

There was also a big demonstration in Alexandria, where crowds chanted, “The people want the execution of the president.”

Muslim Brotherhood supporters of the president attempted to avoid clashes of the sort that broke out Wednesday, demonstrating in their tens of thousands in the old Islamic quarter in front of the al-Azhar Seminary or at the Rabiah al-Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City not so far from the presidential palace.

The liberal political leaders of the National Salvation Front coalition, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Elbaradei and the former secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, rejected Morsi’s call for a dialogue meeting on Saturday. They insisted that Morsi first rescind his decree of Nov. 22 in which he put himself above judicial review.

Egypt faces a tough weekend, with a completely polarized public. Aljazeera Arabic is reporting that a few small parties, including The Ghad Party and the liberal Muslim Wasat Party, are saying they are willing to negotiate with Morsi, though their demands remain thesame.

Euronews reports:

9 Responses

  1. Prof. Cole, you’re the hardest working analyst I know (seven days a week?). In this post: I can’t believe that mask made it to Egypt – are they going by the movie or by the history of plotters who wanted to bomb the English Parliament (17th c.e.)? Thanks for covering the region, because TV news has become more useless than usual. I’ll make my donation. -T.

  2. I want to second the comments here. Your analysis has the nuance lacking in most commentaries on the region. Thank you.

  3. Once again Stephen Walt puts it in perspective at his blog

    link to walt.foreignpolicy.com

    In short, entirely too much is at stake for some people not to try to grab everything they can while others will have the imperative to resist it and push for their own vision. There’s a power vacuum in which everyone has an enormous stake. And if that weren’t the case, then it wouldn’t be a real revolution.

  4. The general unwillingness of many of the police and army to intervene actively in favor of President Morsi appears to have put a fright into him and his administration.

    Why would Morsi think the Army would back him up any more than it backed up Mubarak last year?

    I continue to be flabbergasted by the scope of Morsi’s unforced error. He chooses to use the moment of his negotiation of a case-fire in Gaza to do…this?

    • “I continue to be flabbergasted by the scope of Morsi’s unforced error.”

      It does seem incredible, Joe, until one consider’s the possibility that it may not have been an error. It may not have been auspicious timing, but it may have represented Morsi’s ultimate goal. We have been operating under the assumption that Morsi represents a “new” Muslim Brotherhood. Perhaps the “new” Muslim Brotherhood has been a wish, rather than a fact, all along, and is no different than the “old” Muslim Brotherhood.

      Just a possibility to consider.

      • But even assuming all of the bad faith and dictatorial fanaticism you claim, he still shot himself in the foot.

        It’s not the desire to consolidate power that I’m having trouble wrapping my head around; it’s the total miscalculation of how this gambit would work out. Why would he think the Egyptian public, including the opposition, would take this lying down? Why would he think the army would have his back?

        How could the man who got to the top of Muslim Brotherhood politics, helped to lead the peaceful overthrow of a powerful, entrenched dictator, and got himself elected President screw up this badly?

      • Yep. Lying is what we humans do, spectacularly well on occasion. From what I infer from your contributions here, you may be well aware of the behavior in many contexts, and maybe of parts of it that even us cynics don’t dream of even in our nightmares, let alone know about.

        Maybe the “new” -cons, as in “neo”cons, are really just a wish or a projection or excrescence of the same part of the human brain as whatever the “scary-sounding” Muslim Brotherhood (scarier even than the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, or even the US Chamber of Commerce) comes from, and no different than that same set of Rough Characters that since John Foster Dulles have been leading the formerly great nation down into post-imperial irrationality and irrelevance.

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