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Massive Protests Mark Morsi Anniversary
June 30, 2013

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Protesters in the hundreds of thousands gathered in Cairo and in many other cities to vent their frustration with the performance of Mohamed Morsi as President. It was just one year ago that he was inaugurated as the first freely elected leader of Egypt in many, many years.

Observers said that the rallies were in size comparable to those that took place in 2011 in Cairo's Tahrir Square, in the last days of the presidency of Hosni Mubarak. The crowd in Cairo was estimated at more than 500,000. Other large rallies took place in Alexandria, Damanhour, Mansoura, and Tanta. For the most part, the protests were positive in atmosphere, with families and older people joining in as many people chanted "Morsi leave" and held up signs of the president's face crossed out in red.

Morsi supporters organized their own presence. Reports of violence were few. The armed forces, highly visible in their combat gear, stood at traffic lights and major intersections, ready to keep the peace.

Morsi has overseen a tumultuous first year as leader of his country. He has routinely been at odds with the judiciary, many of whom were appointed by Mubarak. He has issued some decrees invalidating judicial decisions. He has, for the most part, had the support of the armed forces, even after he accelerated the timetable for retirement for Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the de fact leader of the country for many weeks after Mubarak's ouster.

The Muslim Brotherhood, now Egypt's most powerful political bloc, has the largest presence in the one house of parliament that is still sitting and has as well the support of the even more conservative Salafis, giving parliament a largely Islamist focus. Several of the bills put forward by the Brotherhood and the Salafis have focused in enshrining Islamic law into the secular laws of the country. Opponents of this focus, including former Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed El-Baradi, have repeatedly called on Morsi to engage in a meaningful dialogue for reforming the government along lines that will not curtail human rights for minorities. The protesters also announced that they had 22 million signatures of people on a document urging Morsi to resign.

Morsi himself last week made a highly visible public speech in which he called for high-level talks but offered no specifics. In response to the demonstrations, he reiterated his position as the elected leader of the country.

Meanwhile, the economy remains weak, with prices of both bread and petrol very high. The government is still waiting on approval of a long-sought-after $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. IMF representatives have been seeking assurance of stability in both the economy and the political environment within Egypt.

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