Egypt's latest round of public protests against President Mohamed Morsi, who recently granted himself sweeping new powers, crossed an important symbolic threshold today: rallying at the Presidential Palace. Hafsa Halawa, an Egyptian activist and lawyer, tweeted, "friend on fb: 'never dreamed I could go to a protest at palace, against my president & make it home alive ... Under #Mubarak we would be dead.'"
Though past protests have centered on Tahrir Square and spread organically from there, the presidential palace is six and a half miles away, which makes the decision to gather there all the more significance for the deliberate planning it would require. The protests are surely a big deal, and some activists seem to be hoping for Morsi to resign as Mubarak did, but the last two years have changed a lot in Egyptian politics, and Morsi is not Mubarak. The Islamist leader enjoys the support of the Muslim Brotherhood and its followers. The military, which ousted Mubarak, might not be so eager to repeat what have been some difficult and politically bruising months for an organization not accustomed to the spotlight.
To be sure, there's no telling what the next week or month or year could bring in Egypt's increasingly rocky transition, but February 2011 was in many ways unique to February 2011. It would most likely be a mistake to expect that the same process of protests to crackdowns to presidential resignation would, or even could, repeat.
CAIRO — Thousands of protesters massed outside the presidential palace and in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Tuesday, as Egyptians voiced their opposition to President Mohamed Morsi for a 12th straight day.
The deepening political crisis has pitted Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, and his Islamist backers against a broad alliance of young liberals, judges, human rights groups and loyalists of the former government.
Both the Islamists and their opponents have painted Egypt’s deepening crisis, which centers on a draft of the new constitution, as a battle for the country’s soul and the success of its faltering transition to democracy.
Morsi set a date of Dec. 15 for a a national referendum on the draft after the Islamist-dominated assembly tasked with writing it rushed to approve it last week, deepening the political rift over his decree and leaving the opposition divided over what to do if the referendum is carried out.
Below, to give you a sense of the city, is a map showing the footpath from Tahrir (point A) to the presidential palace (point B), which is in the suburb of Heliopolis.