In a rival show of force against anti-Morsi organizing, on June 21, tens of thousands of the president’s backers rallied in a Cairo square. A group called the "Alliance of Islamic Parties" has announced an open-ended demonstration titled "Legitimacy is a Red Line," that will begin on June 28 to defend the president.
Since assuming the formal levers of power, the Brotherhood have routinely dismissed the opposition as being led by remnants of the former regime; and one that is trying to subvert the democratic process in the face of their proven prowess at the polls over the course of the post-Mubarak transition.
"Certain power-seeking parties spend billions on hired thugs in order to push this homeland into anarchy, chaos and lawlessness, with flimsy political cover," said Hussein Ibrahim, secretary general of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, in a press statement on June 20. "These are calls for action, apparently for political demands, but in fact for bloodshed, violence and vandalism."
Armed with a far-reaching grassroots organization, well-established patronage networks, decades-long experience in contesting elections and a strict hierarchical discipline to effectively mobilize their base, the Brotherhood and its allies have won the presidency and majorities in both houses of parliament and passed a constitution in a controversial referendum.
Yet they have presided over a deepening political paralysis and economic decline that has fostered growing discontent to their rule. Fears of their perceived attempt to dominate state institutions in a campaign of "Brotherhoodization" only grew in mid-June, when Morsi appointed seventeen new provincial governors, seven of whom are members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Governors play an influential role in arrangements for elections. But the biggest outcry was reserved for the president’s decision to appoint as Luxor governor a member of the hardline Islamist group Gamaa Islamiya, involved in a 1997 attack in the city that killed fifty-eight tourists. The new governor announced his resignation days later amidst the uproar.
Morsi also appeared to shore up his Islamist base earlier this month when he attended a mass rally by hardline clerics, who repeatedly used sectarian language to call for jihad in Syria against Bashar al Assad’s regime and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and announced Egypt was cutting ties with Damascus.
On June 27, the president delivered a televised address lasting more than two and a half hours in which he blamed Mubarak loyalists for the "paralysis" that has marked his first year in office, while also admitting errors and offering some minor reforms, a move his opponents blasted as too little too late.
Tamarod backers have stressed the peaceful nature of the June 30 protests, but with hundreds of thousands expected to take to the streets, the potential for violence is high. Clashes have already broken out between the president’s supporters and opponents in a number of cities across the country, resulting in injuries and deaths.
In early June, the Tamarod headquarters in downtown Cairo was briefly set ablaze by unknown assailants hurling Molotov cocktails, while campaign volunteers across the country have been subjected to physical assaults and brief arrests. Muslim Brotherhood offices have been attacked across the country, prompting the group to fortify its Cairo headquarters with a reinforced wall and a five-inch-thick iron gate.
No one can say with any certainty what the outcome of June 30 will be.
Meanwhile, the army — the other major player in Egyptian politics — has remained on the sidelines for much of the past year, content to enjoy its longstanding economic and political privileges, many of which were enshrined for the first time in the constitution backed by the Brotherhood. Yet amid growing tensions over the looming protests, Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi waded into the political fray on June 23 and issued a sharp warning to rival political forces, saying the army will intervene to stop the nation from entering a "dark tunnel" and that politicians should use the week remaining before the mass rallies to seek reconcile their differences. "We will not remain silent while the country slips into a conflict that will be hard to control," he said.
While Tamarod organizers doubt Morsi will be forced out of office on June 30, they see the day as the launch of a newly galvanized opposition movement whose strength lies in its grassroots core that is unaffiliated with any political party. "We will continue to escalate like we did against Hosni Mubarak," campaign spokesman Badr says. "We are calling for an open sit-in in front of the presidential palace, and we can escalate to a general strike and civil disobedience."
Morsi has called for national unity and reconciliation talks which was rejected by leading members of the political opposition. The presidency also announced the launch of a new online campaign — morsifirstyear.com — aimed at promoting Morsi’s first year in office.
"We recognize that the most fundamental requirements for economic growth and development is political stability, so we are continuing to work on that as the basis for everything else," says an official at the president’s office. "It is important to reiterate that as transitions go, what is happening in Egypt is very normal; one may even call it benign," the official says. "Always remember that in the long history of this country, this is the first elected government ever."
Egyptians have gone to the polls four times in two years yet the political process is increasingly perceived as alienating and dissatisfying. The clash between revolutionary and conventional politics will come to a head on June 30 as many Egyptians prepare to hit the streets to try and oust the president they helped elect one year ago.