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Egypt

Pressure building on Morsi

Anti-Morsi protesters are stepping up their demonstrations against the president and his moves to concentrate power. In reply, the Muslim Brotherhood is resorting to Mubarak-era propaganda.

The pressure on Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is growing by the day. Over 100,000 protesters gathered in Cairo overnight, not only on Tahrir Square, but also in front of the presidential palace.

The demonstrations remained largely peaceful with the police showing restraint in dealing with the scattered incidences of violence. Morsi is well aware that a bloody crackdown at this point would trigger a potential uprising against him and his government.

The protesters' demands remain the same: they want Morsi to rescind his decree granting him widespread powers and to shelve plans for a constitution drawn-up by an Islamist-dominated panel.

One of those demonstrating was Abel Salah El-Din: "The constitution is a constitution of the Muslim Brotherhood. Tahrir Square was largely peaceful before Morsi's power grab. Now the people are taking action, that's the reaction to his plans."

'Revolution is not weak'

More and more protesters are calling on Morsi to step down, however they have no answer to what would happen next. Even opposition figures who had previously supported Morsi are turning their backs on him.

Prominent author Alaa Aswani was one of those who backed Morsi in the second round of the presidential elections, simply because he and other liberal opposition figures wanted to prevent ousted President Hosni Mubarak's last premier, Ahmed Shafiq, from becoming president.

On Tuesday Aswani addressed Morsi in a written statement: "This is a clear message to the dictator: the revolution is not weak and it can topple you. Next time you break your promise you will be unable to flee and you will join Mubarak."

As the protests grow, the Muslim Brotherhood is resorting more and more to propaganda in an attempt to distort the reality on the ground. In its coverage, the pro-Brotherhood leaning Arab TV channel Al Jazzera focused on close-up shots of the demonstrations, leaving the impression that the numbers were small. The same applies to state-run TV channels, reminiscent of practices used in the Mubarak era. Online media with links to the Muslim Brotherhood are also extremely biased in their reporting on the demonstrations.

The most blatantly obvious propaganda lie came from the secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood, who wrote on the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper's website that there were no more than 2,000 demonstrators in front of the presidential palace - even though private TV networks were already showing pictures of masses of people gathering around the palace.

Anti-Mursi protesters shout slogans during a protest in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, December 4, 2012. Egyptian police battled thousands of protesters outside President Mohamed Mursi's palace in Cairo on Tuesday, prompting the Islamist leader to leave the building, two presidential sources said. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

Protesters have given Morsi until Friday to make concessions.

Further escalation

Many of the demonstrators who belong to the middle class can no longer understand Morsi's uncompromising position. Firas, a textile manufacturer, is one of them. Up until last week he had not taken part in the protests. "I completely oppose Morsi's decision to expand his powers, his absolute powers. Where does that leave democracy? I really don't understand his thinking. He should be talking to his people."

Meanwhile George Ishak, founder of the prominent Kifaya opposition movement, has threatened further escalation should Morsi refuse to make any concessions to the demonstrators by the end of the week.

However, the Islamists appear to be unwilling to show any signs of conciliation. On Tuesday, a lawyer filed charges against several opposition leaders, including Mohammed El Baradi, accusing them of espionage and incitement - in a move reminiscent of how Mubarak and his regime dealt with goverment critics. Egypt's new attorney general - appointed by Morsi - has already ordered the district attorney to look into the charges.

DW.DE