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June 19, 2013

Morsi Critics Demand Early Egypt Elections

by Elizabeth Arrott

For many Egyptians, the year since Mohamed Morsi became the nation's first democratically elected president has been a failure. After a year of dreadful economic decline, energy and water shortages, lack of security and what some see as the president's overbearing, exclusive, Islamist agenda, they now want to do something about it.

Across the country, activists with the Tamarod - or Rebel - campaign have been collecting signatures expressing lost confidence in Morsi and demanding early elections.

Some view the campaign, and planned demonstrations on June 30, as an exercise in democracy.

May Wahba, head of Tamarod's media department, argues the legally elected Morsi lost legitimacy when he assumed extraordinary powers for several weeks late last year.

She says anti-Morsi campaigners would like to use the same democratic way he came to power to make him leave. She cites Article 1 of the constitution, which places power in the hands of the people.

Tamarod Central Committee member Sayed Gharib contends Morsi has betrayed the spirit of the January, 2011 revolution and the hundreds who died carrying it out.

Gharib says the revolution brought Morsi to power, but “the legality of the ballot box and constitutional legality will not stand above the blood of the martyrs.”

Tamarod campaigners say they have collected the signatures of 15 million people, more than the number who voted for Morsi last year.

Tamarod leaders do not know how many who signed the petition will turn out for the demonstrations. They also express doubts Morsi will give in to their demands, even if millions do take to the streets. The president has already called the planned protests counter-revolutionary, and says he will deal with them “decisively.” Government supporters plan demonstrations of their own.

Tamarod member Wahba says the movement is committed to peaceful protest, but is bracing for violence.

She says they are expecting June 30 to be “a bloody day” because certain groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have been putting pressure on Tamarod since their campaign began in April.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing say authorities will respect peaceful demonstrations. But Mohamed Soudan, the Freedom and Justice Party's foreign secretary, says protesters would be better off mobilizing what support it has for the next round of parliamentary elections.

“Then you can have your own prime minister who can do whatever are your desires and demands and then he will have, according to the new constitution, more power, more benefits than the president himself,” Soudan said.

Tamarod leader Gharib says it is not about power. He hopes Egypt's constitutional court will assume interim control if Morsi steps down. Those are the slogans, and the hope, of the revolution that toppled the old government, protests Gharib took part in. He also demonstrated against the military rulers who followed.

The mantle of revolution - of protest against oppression, even if it is not clear what comes next - is something Tamorod shares with those in power now.

The Freedom and Justice Party's Soudan says Tamarod should give Morsi a chance.

“They should ask him their demands in the manner which better makes them the model, which all over the world [people] appreciate, the way which was the 25th of January revolution," Soudan said. "The Egyptians were already a good model.”

Egypt's democracy, and its culture of protest, is in its infancy. Interpreters sometimes contradict each other and occasionally themselves. Perhaps the only thing certain is that as tempers and temperatures flare, the country is facing a long, hot summer.