Speaking to a conference hall lined with cabinet ministers and officials of his Muslim Brotherhood party, President Mohamed Morsi announced an all-party committee to reform the constitution in a bid to defuse the opposition and looming mass protests.
Pledging to introduce "radical
and quick" reforms into state institutions, Morsi seemed
to strike a conciliatory note against vocal insurrection from the
political opposition, announcing that his government would form a
second committee to address “national reconciliation.”
"I stand before you as an Egyptian citizen, not as the holder of an office, who is fearful for his country,” said Morsi. He then vowed to review his first year in office, which began June 30 of 2012. Protesters have chosen to mark the upcoming anniversary with mass demonstrations aimed at the embattled leader’s resignation.
"Today, I present an audit of my first year, with full transparency, along with a road map. Some things were achieved and others not," Morsi said. "I have made mistakes on a number of issues.”
While acknowledging errors during his term, Morsi pointed the
finger at unspecified "enemies
of Egypt" for sabotaging the country’s young democratic
system, which was haphazardly raised following the ouster of his
predecessor Hosni Mubarak. The former leader was overthrown in a
popular uprising in 2011, despite decades of support from the
"Political polarization and conflict has reached a stage that threatens our nascent democratic experience and threatens to put the whole nation in a state of paralysis and chaos," said Morsi. "The enemies of Egypt have not spared effort in trying to sabotage the democratic experience," he added.
Thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Wednesday for Morsi’s national address. According to Ahram Online, demonstrators carried placards bearing pro-army slogans, including “the people and the army are one hand” – a motto which was often seen during Egypt’s tumultuous 2011 uprising.
Clashes were reported in Alexandria, where supporters and opponents of Egypt’s Morsi threw rocks and fired shotguns in the early hours of Thursday during the leader’s keynote speech in Cairo. Just hours prior, at least two people were killed and over 200 wounded as hundreds clashed in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura.
Hundreds of demonstrators also gathered in front of the country’s defense ministry headquarters in eastern Cairo, demanding that defense minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi take over power from President Morsi.
Opponents of Morsi’s government want him to resign and continue to call for an early election, charging that Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood are consolidating power while failing to solve Egypt's pressing problems - including a serious economic recession and a more recent fuel shortage.
Wednesday’s unrest seemed to be a harbinger of things to come. Speaking from Cairo, RT correspondent Bel Trew reported that Egyptians were preparing themselves for another wave of increased violence.
“Definitely the fear here is
that violence is going to escalate. We’ve seen a number of
clashes around the governorate. People are even reaching out to
private security firms to secure their homes and businesses. The
military released a statement this week saying that they will
have to step in if violence continues.”