Egypt's NSF rejects Morsi speech, presses demand for snap elections

Ahram Online , Thursday 27 Jun 2013

National Salvation Front (NSF) opposition coalition spurns President Morsi's call for national reconciliation, presses demands for new government, constitutional changes and early presidential polls

Egyptian reform leader Mohammed El Baradei, center, speaks during a press conference following the meeting of the National Salvation Front, as former Egyptian presidential candidate, Hamdeen Sabahi, left, and former Egyptian Foreign Minister and presidential candidate, Amr Moussa, right, listen in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 (Photo: AP)

Egypt's largest opposition umbrella group, the National Salvation Front (NSF), issued a statement in response to President Mohamed Morsi's Wednesday night speech, in which it reiterated demands for snap presidential polls, a new government and constitutional amendments.

"The president's address reinforced Egyptians' belief about Morsi's inability to fill the position of president," the NSF asserted.

In a lengthy speech on Wednesday, Morsi cited his achievements during his first year in office and meted out praise for Egypt's police, army and judiciary.

He also announced his intention to incorporate young Egyptians into the decision-making process – claiming the absence of young cadres as one of his first-term mistakes – and promised to task Egypt's next parliament with amending the constitution, a longstanding opposition demand.

The NSF, however, said the president did not refer to his "failure" to administer the country in his first year and didn't mention his "numerous and dangerous mistakes."

The opposition coalition cited Morsi's controversial constitutional declaration issued in November, which gave him sweeping powers – a move that deepened Egypt's political polarisation and led to a spate of political violence.

"Morsi's speech only deepens our resolve to press our demands for early presidential elections in order to achieve the aims of the revolution, most important of which is social justice," the statement read.

It went on to express the NSF's belief that Egyptians "will come out in the millions in peaceful protests that will fill Egypt's streets and squares on Sunday."

Morsi's speech comes on the eve of mass demonstrations on 30 June, called for by Egypt's 'Rebel' campaign, which says it has collected 15 million citizens' signatures in support of its calls to impeach the president – two million more than the votes Morsi garnered in last year's elections.

Amid a persistent economic downturn and rampant political infighting, anti-Morsi sentiment has increased on the street, while rifts with former allies – most notably the Salafist Nour Party – have emerged, giving impetus to the planned protests.

Military forces began deploying nationwide on Tuesday, with Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi saying earlier this week that the army had a "moral responsibility" to "stop Egypt from slipping into a dark tunnel" of political violence.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood – which propelled Morsi to power in last year's polls – and its allies staged a mass protest last week to voice support for the president's "democratic legitimacy" and "Say no to violence."

Many Islamist politicians have accused the opposition of giving cover to political violence; others have vowed to respond in kind if Sunday's opposition protests turn violent.

Another pro-Morsi sit-in is set to take place on Friday, two days ahead of the 30 June protests and close to the latter's meeting point in Cairo's Heliopolis district, stoking fears of possible confrontations.

In its statement, the NSF voiced its support for "popular demands" for early presidential elections, to be followed shortly afterward by parliamentary polls.

Egypt's lower house of parliament was dissolved last year. President Morsi has temporarily granted the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Shura Council (the upper house of Egypt's parliament) legislative powers.

The NSF also called for a new government, which it wants to see focus on the economy, security (still largely absent since the 2011 uprising) and social justice, while issuing transitional justice laws and working towards national reconciliation.

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