Thousands of supporters of Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi have gathered in Cairo to show solidarity with the elected head of state ahead of planned national protests his opponents hope can force him from office.
Crowds converged on after Friday prayers in the suburb of Nasser City, many waving the national flag, some carrying pictures of the president, in what is intended to demonstrate strength of numbers ahead of opposition rallies set for June 30, the first anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration.
Reporting from Cairo, Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh said: “This demonstration is a display of one-upmanship ahead of opposition protests on June 30.”
The strength of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood had won it successive elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
“Yes to respecting the will of the people!” read banners. “There are people seeking a coup against the lawful order,” said 22-year-old demonstrator Gaber Nader.
Secular groups say they have gathered some 13 million signatures – almost equal to the number of votes that elected Morsi a year ago – on a petition calling on him to step down.
“The opposition has been saying they want protests to unseat the president,” our correspondent said. “That is something these crowds say is unconstitutional and illegitimate.”
Mass rallies ahead
They plan mass rallies across Egypt on June 30 and have attracted support from many Egyptians less politically motivated but exasperated by economic stagnation under Morsi.
Reflecting a sense their electoral success is under siege from unelected institutions and vested interests rooted in the Mubarak-era, when their party was banned, some in Friday’s crowd chanted for “A purge of the judiciary!” and “A purge of the media!”
There was no trouble evident around the crowd of well over 10,000 in Cairo, but state newspaper al-Ahram carried a report on its website from the second city of Alexandria saying there had been some violence between pro- and anti-Mursi factions.
The demonstration also came two days after Egypt’s tourism minister resigned following Morsi’s appointment of a new governor to Luxor province from an party linked to a massacre of holidaymakers in the temple city.
Hesham Zazou said on Wednesday he “couldn’t continue in the role of tourism minister” after the appointment of Adel al-Khayat, a former member of the political arm of group Gamaa Islamiya.