Hundreds of thousands of protesters marked Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s first anniversary in office Sunday with demonstrations in Cairo and in other cities across the country, demanding that the Islamist leader step down for failing to tackle economic and security problems.
Mr. Morsi’s supporters also took to the streets, raising fears of violent clashes between the two camps. The Associated Press reported that protests in southern Egypt had turned deadly, with at least four killed Sunday in shootings at anti-Morsi rallies.
In Cairo, protesters packed into Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests that resulted in the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011.
Outside the Ittihadiya presidential palace, protesters chanted for Mr. Morsi to “leave.”
A short distance away, near the Rabia al-Adawiya mosque, thousands of Morsi supporters gathered under a blazing summer sun.
Protests also were reported in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and the Nile Delta cities of Mansoura, Tanta and Damanhour.
As the demonstrations swelled on the streets, Egyptian activists took to social media.
“Once again, the power of the people is stronger than the people in power,” Wael Ghonim, a former Google Inc. executive who emerged as a significant figure in the anti-Mubarak revolution, wrote on Twitter.
Opposition activists have launched the protests under the banner of “Tamarod,” or “Rebellion.”
The group claims to have collected 22 million signatures from Egyptians on its petition that calls on the president to step down. Egypt has a population of 85 million.
The opposition National Salvation Front, a relatively secular coalition of opposition forces that has endorsed the Tamarod petition, called on protesters to “maintain their peaceful [rallies] in all the squares and streets and villages and hamlets of the country … until the last of this dictatorial regime falls.”
“If the [Muslim Brotherhood] wishes to survive even a bit, Morsi should announce early elections, and a new leadership should take over the [Muslim Brotherhood],” Bassem Sabry, an Egyptian writer and blogger, wrote on Twitter referring to Mr. Morsi’s Islamist political party.
Mr. Morsi, who has three years left in his term, said he would not step down and rejected calls for an early election.
“If we changed someone in office who [was elected] according to constitutional legitimacy — well, there will be people opposing the new president too, and a week or a month later they will ask him to step down,” Mr. Morsi told Britain’s Guardian newspaper in an interview published Sunday.