Egypt’s embattled president on Wednesday acknowledged making mistakes during his first year in office.
In a televised speech ahead of a planned mass weekend demonstration by opponents demanding his resignation, President Mohammed Morsi pledged to introduce “radical and quick” reforms in state institutions. He insisted he has been “right” about some issues.
Opponents want him to resign and call early elections, charging that he and his Muslim Brotherhood are monopolizing power and failing to solve Egypt’s pressing problems.
He was speaking at a conference hall filled by cabinet ministers and senior officials of his Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, along with several hundred supporters.
His speech was interrupted repeatedly by applause and chants from his supporters. The army chief was among those in attendance, and he politely clapped.
On Twitter, Egyptian and international observers and journalists criticized and mocked the president’s speech.
#Morsi is attacking his nemesis by name , a sign of weakness not a strong president’s act
— Zeinobia (@Zeinobia) June 26, 2013
— Deena Adel (@deena_adel) June 26, 2013
Earlier Wednesday, at least one person was killed and hundreds were injured in clashes between opponents and supporters of the president, security and hospital officials said.
Some 5,000 Morsi supporters from several Islamist parties — including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafi Front and Morsi’s own Freedom and Justice Party — were staging a demonstrations for the president titled “No to Violence, Yes to Legitimacy,” according to Egypt Independent, when clashes involving Molotov cocktails broke out with the anti-Morsi demonstrators.
Meanwhile, the military said it was bringing reinforcements closer to Egypt’s main cities. The troop movement signaled the gravity of the situation, as huge demonstrations by Morsi’s opponents and supporters loom for June 30, along with the specter of violence.
On Sunday, the military chief warned that the army would not stand by and watch Egypt deteriorate into chaos. The two sides have interpreted that statement as support for their opposing positions. The Brotherhood believes the military would intervene to preserve its government, while opponents are convinced that soldiers would protect them from attacks by Islamic militants.
Anger is growing over Egypt’s economic malaise, typified by a severe fuel shortage that has forced many in Cairo to wait in line for hours at gas stations. Electric power cuts are frequent, prices are rising and unemployment is increasing, further adding to tensions.