Egypt's Islamist parties are preparing for pro-government rallies this Friday to support the Muslim Brotherhood's beleaguered President Mohamed Morsi. The move comes ahead of planned anti-Morsi rallies on 30 June, prompting widespread fears of violence between the rival camps.
Calls for Friday's pro-Morsi rallies were made by several Islamist parties at a 12 June conference held at the headquarters of the ultra-conservative Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya's Building and Development Party.
Friday's protests will be held at the Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo's Nasr City district on Friday afternoon, with the stated aim of "denouncing political violence and backing the president's democratic legitimacy."
"We seek to promote peaceful means of demonstrating, denounce the opposition's calls for violence and – most importantly – support Egypt's freely elected president and defend his democratic legitimacy," Ahmed Oqeil, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) told Ahram Online.
Calls for anti-Morsi rallies on 30 June – which will feature demands for the president's ouster – have been met with condemnation by Morsi supporters, who accuse elements of the opposition of planning to incite violence and chaos to serve their narrow political agendas.
Islamist parties themselves, however, appear divided over Friday's planned pro-Morsi demos. Some groups have endorsed the event while others appear to be distancing themselves from the protest calls.
Seventeen Islamist parties have thrown their weight behind Friday's rallies in support of the president, including the FJP, the Wasat Party, the Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya's Building and Development Party, and the Salafist Watan and Asala parties.
The Salafist Call, however, Egypt's most influential Salafist organisation, has said it would not take part in either Friday's Islamist protests or the 30 June anti-Morsi demonstrations.
The group says it fears the potential for violence, which threatens to aggravate the pre-existing state of polarisation between Egypt's Islamists and secularists.
While the group says it objects to some of Morsi's policies and those of his government, it affirms his legitimate, democratic right to complete his four-year term of office.
"The constitution sets out cases in which the president can be impeached, but none of these applies to President Morsi," read a Monday statement issued by the Salafist Call.
Morsi has recently come under fire for what critics describe as attempts to tighten the Muslim Brotherhood's grip on Egypt's state bureaucracy. The 85-year-old group – outlawed during the Mubarak era –was propelled into power following the 2011 popular uprising that put paid to the former regime.
A gubernatorial shake-up by Morsi on Sunday in which he named seven Brotherhood members – and a leading figure of the once-militant Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya – as regional governors sparked outrage among the president's critics. Ever since the controversial appointments, several cities in Egypt have seen demonstrations and violent clashes.
Defending 'democratic legitimacy'
While stressing the right to peaceful protest, the Salafist Nour Party – which has adopted the same position on this Friday's protests as the Salafist Call – slammed what it sees as attempts by Morsi's opponents to "circumvent democratic legitimacy" by demanding snap presidential polls.
The opposition's planned 30 June rallies are being spearheaded by the anti-Morsi 'Rebel' signature drive to demand early elections. Many expect that the protests will be the largest since those seen on the 25 January uprising's second anniversary.
"The peaceful transition of power should be decided at the ballot box, not by rioting and signature drives," read a Nour Party statement issued on Tuesday. "The opposition will have a peaceful and constitutional opportunity to challenge to the ruling regime in upcoming parliamentary polls."
As both sides accuse one another of bracing for bloodshed, 'Rebel' campaigners appear to have ruled out any resort to violence, particularly in light of the massive turnout they are anticipating on 30 June.
According to anti-Morsi campaigners, the planned 30 June protests will culminate in an open-ended sit-in outside Morsi's residence, where tens of thousands plan to camp out "until the departure of the regime."
The FJP's Oqeil, for his part, dismissed the opposition's ability to mobilise large numbers.
"In their recent demonstrations, the opposition has failed to mobilise large numbers, while the Brotherhood has repeatedly demonstrated its ability to draw millions of supporters when it wants to."