Egypt tense in buildup to mass protest
Opposition claims millions want Morsi to leave office
CAIRO – Organizers of a mass protest against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi claimed Saturday that more than 22 million people have signed their petition demanding the Islamist leader step down, asserting that the tally was a reflection of how the public has turned against his rule.
The announcement adds to a sense of foreboding on the eve of opposition-led mass demonstrations that many fear could turn deadly and quickly spin out of control, dragging the country into a dangerous round of political violence.
The demonstrations planned for today reflect the growing polarization of the nation since Morsi took power, with the president and his Islamist allies in one camp, and seculars, liberals, moderate Muslims and Christians in the other.
There is a sense among opponents and supporters of Morsi that today’s rally is a make-or-break day. The opposition feels empowered by the petition, known as Tamarod, or “Rebel,” but it offered no proof regarding the figures. If verified, it would mean that nearly double the number of people who voted for Morsi a year ago are now calling for him to step down.
“Honestly, if (today) is not a game changer, we might all just pack up our bags and leave,” said Mahmoud Salem, a prominent blogger known by his blog’s name Sandmonkey and a vocal critic of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails.
While violence is likely in such a tense atmosphere, Salem said it would not play out in favor of Morsi supporters because they will be outnumbered.
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