Supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi clashed at the presidential palace in Cairo for a second day on Wednesday, deepening the political crisis over expanded presidential powers and a controversial draft constitution.
Clashes erupted for a second day on Wednesday after the Muslim Brotherhood, which backs President Mohammed Morsi, told its supporters to go to the presidential palace where hundreds have been protesting against Morsi's expanded powers and a controversial draft constitution.
Thousands of Morsi supporters descended on the area around the palace where opponents were staging a sit-in. Members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood chased the protesters away from their base outside the palace’s main gate and tore down their tents. The protesters scattered, taking to side streets from where they chanted anti-Morsi slogans.
At least 211 people have been injured so far, the health ministry said.
Prime Minister Hisham Kandil called for calm around the presidential palace on Wednesday “to give a chance to efforts being made [for] national dialogue”.
After a lull in the fighting, hundreds of young Morsi opponents began throwing firebombs at the president’s backers, who responded by throwing rocks. Witnesses said they saw several protesters with blood streaming down their faces.
Opposition groups said they were also calling on their supporters to head to the palace. A day earlier, police fired teargas at up to 10,000 demonstrators who surrounded the palace in what they called “last warning” protests against Morsi.
Morsi 'responsible for the violence'
The duelling demonstrations are part of a political crisis that has left the country divided between Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood Islamists and an opposition that includes youth groups, liberal parties and secularist sectors of the public. Both sides have dug in their heels, signalling what could be a protracted standoff.
Protests began soon after Morsi issued a November 22 decree that expanded his powers, placing him beyond the reach of the judiciary. He then fuelled opposition anger by pushing through the approval of a draft constitution that was drawn up by an Islamist-led assembly. The draft is set for a public referendum on December 15.
"We hold President Mursi and his government completely responsible for the violence happening in Egypt today," opposition politician Mohamed ElBaradei told a news conference, describing Morsi’s rule as “no different” from that of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak.
"We are ready for dialogue if the constitutional decree is cancelled ... and the referendum on this constitution is postponed," said ElBaradei, who heads the National Salvation Front alliance.
Three members of Morsi’s advisory team resigned on Wednesday over the crisis, according to presidential sources. Seif Abdel Fattah, Ayman al-Sayyad and Amr al-Leithy have tendered their resignations, bringing to six the number of presidential staff who have quit in the row over the decree.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2012-12-05