Two years after Egypt's revolution began, the country's schism was on
display Friday as the mainly liberal and secular opposition held giant
rallies saying the goals of the pro-democracy uprising have not been met
and denouncing Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
protesters filled Cairo's central Tahrir Square, where the January 2011
uprising was born, and the area outside the presidential palace in the
city's Heliopolis district. Throughout these places, the iconic Arab
Spring chants of "Erha! Erhal!" or "leave, leave" and "the people want
to topple the regime" rang out.
The protesters are using the
anniversary to stage a show of strength in a bid to force Morsi to amend
a disputed constitution drafted by his Islamist allies. They are also
demanding freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary.
broke out for a second day on some sidestreets near Tahrir and police
fired tear gas to disperse the young men throwing stones. There were
also clashes in Alexandria.
Smaller crowds also gathered in
central squares in the Mediterranean cities of Port Said as well as the
Nile Delta city of Mehalla and Suez at the southern entrance of the Suez
Muslim Brotherhood supporters opted not to mark the anniversary on the
streets, arguing that they will honor the occasion with acts of public
service, like treating the sick and planting trees, a tactic dismissed
by the opposition as a public relations stunt ahead of parliamentary
elections expected in April.
The Brotherhood's ultraconservative allies, known as Salafis, also said they would stay off the streets to avoid clashes.
The anniversary of the revolution comes as Egypt faces a new phase in
its upheaval: Ruling Islamists trying to push through their agenda, an
opposition trying to break their lock on power, and an economy in
free-fall that threatens to fuel public discontent.
At the heart
of the country's political divide is a disputed constitution drafted by
Morsi's allies without the participation of liberals or minority
Christians, what the opposition sees as a bid by Morsi and his Muslim
Brotherhood to take control of all state institutions and the
president's meddling in the judiciary.
"I am asking everyone to
go out and demonstrate to show that the revolution must be completed and
that the revolution must continue," opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei
said in a televised message posted on his party's website. "There must
be a constitution for all Egyptians. A constitution that every one of us
sees himself in it," said the Nobel peace Laureate and former head of
the U.N. nuclear watchdog, IAEA.
New militia-like groups
opposed to the Islamists have declared in video messages posted on
social networks this week their intention to defend the opposition
protesters if attacked. At least 10 people were killed and hundreds
injured when Morsi's supporters descended upon protesters camped outside
his palace in December, starting clashes that lasted for hours with
firebombs, swords, knifes and firearms.