Mursi Backers Rally in Egypt as Opponents Defend Ouster

Rallies by supporters of toppled Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi have entered their third week as the opposing camp continues to defend the Islamist leader’s ouster, extending a standoff that risks wider instability.

Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood is urging Egyptians to continue protesting what it sees as a military coup against an elected president. His supporters clashed with opponents after Friday prayers yesterday in Cairo’s Al-Azhar mosque, resulting in some injuries, the state-run Middle East News Agency said.

Military jets flew over central Cairo yesterday, and armored vehicles surrounded the presidential palace, where security forces fired tear gas at Mursi supporters blocking opposition protesters from entering the area, MENA said. A woman and a child were killed and at least six injured in clashes in the city of Mansoura, according to Hisham Massoud, a health department official.

Daily protests have roiled Egypt since Mursi’s July 3 removal, leaving scores dead including at least 50, mostly Brotherhood supporters, killed outside an army installation in Cairo last week. The military-backed interim government is seeking to revive an economy that has stalled since longtime leader Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in 2011.

Egyptian politics have become “a zero-sum game -- the idea of compromise doesn’t exist that much,” Omar Ashour, a senior lecturer in Middle East politics at the University of Exeter and a fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, said yesterday by phone from London. In the absence of any credible guarantor for a deal between the sides, “the Brothers believe that their lifeline is sustaining their mobilization,” he said. “That’s the only option they have.”

‘Played Democracy’

The Brotherhood has vowed to continue protests until Mursi is restored to office and refused to cooperate with the interim government, which is due to guide Egypt to presidential elections early next year. Yesterday, military helicopters hovered over tens of thousands of Mursi supporters camped out in Cairo’s Nasr City district, according to state-run Ahram Gate’s website.

“We’re not the ones who called for democracy in the first place,” Mohamed Ibrahim, a 46 year-old engineer and Brotherhood member taking part in the protest, said yesterday. “It was the secular bloc who did, and when we played democracy and they lost, they came up with this whole plot to gain some political advantage. We’re ready to give our lives to defend our president and our principles.”

Gift Vouchers

Helicopters dropped Egyptian flags and gift vouchers over thousands of demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Square and around the presidential palace, according to state-run media.

Mursi supporters also gathered in Alexandria and several other cities. The government hasn’t said where the ex-president, who was detained by security forces when he was removed from office, is being held.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has requested information “about the legal basis on which the former president and his team are detained,” Rupert Colville, Pillay’s spokesman, said yesterday, according to the agency’s website. Pillay has also requested information about the number of people detained since July 3 and the authorities’ approval to deploy a team to the country, he said.

“We’re here because we want to keep the momentum to continue our fight against whoever wants to steal our revolution,” Ali Hussein, 22, said at the Tahrir Square rally. “We won’t allow anyone to hijack our revolution, remnants of the Mubarak regime, Muslim Brotherhood or military.”

New Cabinet

Adly Mansour, the former judiciary chief who was installed as president by the army after its intervention, urged reconciliation and said all Egyptians would be included in the process. In a brief televised address on July 18, he said forces that he didn’t identify are seeking to push the country into violence and chaos.

Mansour presided over the swearing in of a new cabinet on July 16. Its leader, Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi, said the government will convene next week and plans to discuss new economic policies and security conditions, Ahram Gate reported on July 18.

The cabinet has yet to decide on resuming talks with the International Monetary Fund on Egypt’s bid for a $4.8 billion loan, El-Beblawi told Ahram Gate. The country’s main stock index was little changed on July 18, and gained 1.3 percent during the past week.

The Brotherhood described Egypt’s political turbulence as a “serious nightmare” that carries the threat of civil war.

By sustaining protests against Mursi’s ouster, the group “is doing its best to press for better terms of negotiations,” Ziad Akl, a senior analyst at the Cairo-based Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said by phone yesterday.

He said the Brotherhood is probably seeking guarantees that it will be included in the political process and that its leaders won’t be jailed.