Does Egypt face a new revolution?
Millions hope so, it seems; they have signed a national petition demanding the president resign and plan to take to the streets on June 30, when Mohamed Mursi marks a year in office.
Their slogan is a call for revolt: “Tamarud - Rebel!”
But for all the simmering discontent with the Islamist who has presided over political and economic paralysis, millions more are ready to defend Egypt's first freely elected leader; they say those campaigning for him to quit are agents of the old regime and plan their own pro-Mursi rallies starting Friday.
Their counter-campaign – “Tagarud” - calls for open minds.
There is a risk of more of the violence that has punctuated the two and a half years since Hosni Mubarak was toppled by a blast of rage from Tahrir Square. “June 30” crops up endlessly in conversation. The Cairo bourse has shriveled in anticipation and security forces say they are preparing to deal with trouble.
“There is a strong chance of violence,” said retired general Sameh Seif al-Yazal. “It could start from any side.”
It is unclear what can end stalemate between the Islamists, whose organized electoral base has handed them the formal levers of power, and a diffuse opposition of liberals, Christians and secular conservatives united in fear of Islamic rule, plus amass of the uncommitted, fed up with economic drift under Mursi.
The “culture war” between elected Islamists and a secular opposition, with a once-political army in the background, has echoes of today’s unrest in Turkey, but deep economic crisis anda still unformed political system makes Egypt much more fragile.
With world powers at odds over Syria, where Mursi has backed the Sunni Muslim revolt, and Washington funding an Egyptian army that honors Cairo’s peace treaty with Israel, any instability in the most populous Arab state has implications far beyond.
The wealthy generals, once led by Mubarak but who sacrificed him to save themselves, have said they want no more political role. Islamists say it would mean civil war if the troops moved against them. Yet the army is still held in high regard by the vast majority and says it will intervene to maintain order.
However June 30 ends - and few will bet with confidence on the outcome - it will help determine whether the Arab Spring eventually blossoms, or withers - not just for 84 million Egyptians but for would-be democracies across the Middle East.
Protests to give new turn to Egypt revolution
Does Egypt face a new revolution?
Islamists warn army
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