President Mohamed Morsi's national address Wednesday night, delivered only two days before planned mass demonstrations against him, drew a chorus of criticism from his opponents. His mostly-Islamist supporters, however, expressed satisfaction with the speech.
Nader Omran, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), described the address as "excellent, balanced and badly-needed," in light of Egypt's current political impasse.
With Morsi – propelled to power last year by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood – facing off with a mostly liberal and leftist opposition, Omran contended that the address had adequately spelt out the presidency's position on most issues.
In his speech, Morsi presented the audience with a "balance-sheet" of his first year in office, in which he acknowledged both his achievements and errors – something Omran described as "unprecedented" by an Egyptian head of state.
For one, Morsi said he would draw up a committee – consisting of representatives of all political currents – to examine proposed constitutional amendments. Another committee, he said, would be tasked with promoting national reconciliation – an offer that was largely rejected by his opponents.
Egypt's constitution, approved via popular referendum late last year, has been a major source of dispute between the presidency and opposition, with the latter saying that the new national charter falls short of meeting revolutionary demands.
While critics say the president has failed to offer compromise, like a government reshuffle sought by the opposition, Omran argues that such concessions wouldn't remedy the current political deadlock.
"We in the FJP don't think that Prime Minister Hisham Qandil's cabinet is handling things in the best possible manner," Omran told Ahram Online. "But the president [in his speech] sought to tackle overriding, more generic issues."
'Hard to please'
The president's address, however, failed to satisfy most opposition figures and groups.
The speech drew howls of protest among thousands of anti-Morsi protesters who descended on Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square and outside the Egypt's defence ministry headquarters, where big screens were erected to broadcast the speech.
Some Egyptian provinces, including Kafr El-Sheikh and Suez, saw several limited demonstrations early Thursday in which protesters expressed anger at the speech.
Omran, however, believes Morsi's address succeeded in offsetting mounting discontent. He went on to voice doubt that anti-Morsi protesters had even listened to the speech.
"They took to the streets even before the address was delivered," he said.
Omran asserted that, no matter what the president did, opposition figures were constantly picking holes in his decisions.
"I think ordinary people in the streets were largely pleased with the speech," he said, arguing that Egypt's opposition parties – particularly the National Salvation Front umbrella group – "will never be satisfied, even if Morsi made Egypt the best country in the world."
While opposition forces gear up for mass anti-Morsi rallies on 30 June – timed to mark the end of his first year in power – Morsi's Islamist supporters are planning their own counter-demonstrations on Friday to express solidarity with the beleaguered president.
In his speech, Morsi urged calm, calling forpeaceful expressions of protest and warning that "violence will only beget more violence."
Military wild card
The head of Egypt's armed forces, meanwhile, recently warned that the army would move in to curb mounting "friction" if the current political stand-off, which has at times boiled over into violent confrontation, worsens.
His comments triggered speculation about an unspoken rift between the presidency and the military, along with the latter's possible reinsertion into domestic politics.
Omran, however, was quick to play down the notion that Egypt's armed forces were at odds with the presidency.
"Relations between the president and army are excellent," he said, pointing out that Morsi represented the commander-in-chief of both Egypt's' armed forces and police apparatus.
"In the recent meeting [convened by Egypt's National Security Council], both sides [presidency and military] saw eye-to-eye on everything," Omran said.