CAIRO (AP) — More than 200,000 people flocked to Cairo's central Tahrir square on Tuesday, chanting against Egypt's Islamist president in a powerful show of strength by the opposition demanding Mohammed Morsi revoke edicts granting himself near autocratic powers.
Waving Egypt's red, white and black flags, crowds of protesters marched across Cairo to stream into the iconic plaza, as opposition to the decrees issued last week turned into a broader expression of anger against the rule of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
In the evening, Tahrir — birthplace of the uprising that toppled authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago — was filled with a crowd that appeared to be at least 200,000. The protest was comparable in size to the daily Tahrir rallies during last year's 18-day uprising.
Ringing out at the square was the central chant of the 2010-2011 Arab Spring revolts: "The people want to bring down the regime," and "erhal, erhal" — Arabic for "leave, leave."
"Suddenly Morsi is issuing laws and becoming the absolute ruler, holding all powers in his hands," said protester Mona Sadek, a 31-year-old engineering graduate who wears the Islamic veil, a hallmark of piety. "Our revolt against the decrees became a protest against the Brotherhood as well."
But Gehad el-Haddad, a senior adviser to the Brotherhood and its political party, said the opposition was "very divided" and that Morsi would not back down. "We are not rescinding the declaration," he told The Associated Press. Morsi's edicts effectively neutralize the judiciary, which was the only branch of government in a position to balance Morsi, who holds not only executive but also legislative authority.
The staunch stand taken by Morsi and his Brotherhood sets the stage for a long-drawn battle with the opposition that could paralyze the nation at a time when its economic woes are deepening, security continues to be tenuous and strikes by an entire spectrum of white and blue collar workers show no sign of abating.