An Egyptian walks past anti-government posters for a campaign calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and for early presidential elections in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, June 11, 2013. (Photo: AP)
Leading opposition activist Ahmed Bahaa El-Din Shaaban on Tuesday rejected fresh calls by President Mohamed Morsi for "national reconciliation," voicing hope that Egypt's broad political opposition would adopt a "collective stance" against the president's appeal.
Shaaban is head of the Egyptian Socialist Party and a leading member of the National Salvation Front (NSF), Egypt's main opposition umbrella group.
Morsi extended the invitation at a Monday conference organised by Islamist parties and groups devoted to the ongoing row with Ethiopia over the latter's Grand Renaissance Dam project.
"This invitation comes too late," said Shaaban. "It was made in an effort to contain public anger against the president in the run-up to mass anti-government protests planned for the end of the month."
Morsi's call for reconciliation comes less than three weeks before mass demonstrations planned for 30 June to demand Morsi's ouster and snap presidential elections.
'Rebel', an anti-government campaign launched by activists in May, has since gained wide support among the public, fuelled by perceived failures by the Morsi administration to deal with several key issues. These include a foundering economy, recurrent nationwide power cuts and chronic fuel shortages.
Mohamed Adel, a member of the April 6 Youth Movement’s political bureau, announced on Tuesday his group's rejection of a call by President Mohamed Morsi for national dialogue.
The youth movement, which supported President Morsi in the June 2012 presidential elections, described the president's initiative as an attempt to reduce the youth's anger amid "his ongoing failure to run the country."
Shehab Waguih, spokesman for the Egyptian Social Democratic Party – a member-party of the NSF – told Egyptian state news agency MENA that Morsi's recent call for reconciliation was simply a "manoeuvre" aimed at offsetting public anger over government failures to deal with national security threats, especially the ongoing row over Ethiopia's dam project.
In his Monday speech, Morsi called on all Egyptian political forces to stand united in the face of threats to Egypt's national security.
"Consensus and dialogue should have been adopted a long time ago, during the drafting phase of Egypt's new constitution and when important issues were being discussed, such as the elections law, the judicial authority law and demands for a unity government," Waguih asserted.
He went on to accuse Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood – the group from which President Morsi hails – of "monopolising" all these issues.
The NSF was established after the president issued a decree last November giving him far-reaching powers and steeling his decisions against judicial challenge. Afterwards, he called for a popular referendum on a draft constitution drawn up by Islamists and rejected by Egypt's non-Islamist opposition and large swathes of the Egyptian public.
No official statements have yet been issued by the NSF regarding the president's latest calls for national reconciliation. According to Shaaban, the front is still mulling its response to Morsi's appeal.
On Tuesday, some of Morsi's Islamist supporters announced plans to hold a sit-in on 28 June, only two days before planned anti-Morsi rallies to be held in the same location. The move has stoked fears of potential violence between supporters and opponents of the president.