CAIRO -- Tens of thousands of Egyptians marched to the presidential palace Friday demanding that President Mohamed Morsi step down.
“Leave, leave like Mubarak!” they chanted, referring to Morsi’s predecessor, deposed leader Hosni Mubarak.
Many protesters no longer asked for Morsi to rescind a decree that expanded his powers and postpone a referendum scheduled Dec. 15 on a proposed charter written by an Islamist-dominated assembly.
Protesters said they were upset by Morsi’s televised address Thursday, during which he offered a “national dialog” with opposition leaders but remained adamant about the referendum and kept his unpopular decree in place.
At least six people have died and hundreds have been injured in clashes that began Wednesday between Islamist supporters of Morsi and protesters from mainly secular opposition movements.
The civil strife has been the bloodiest the country has witnessed since last year’s uprising that toppled Mubarak. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have refused to retreat as the opposition promised more protests.
“Morsi has lost all legitimacy in the eyes of the people, especially after yesterday’s speech. As a leader, he is responsible for those who died,” Waleed Essam, a 30-year-old artist said as he waved a large white banner with the image of one of the revolution’s fallen victims.
“He didn’t even acknowledge that those who died were revolutionaries. He spoke 24 hours after the violence. This is not a president for Egyptians,” Essam said.
The country’s National Salvation Front, led by opposition leaders Mohamed El Baradei and Hamdeen Sabahy, has refused to negotiate with the president until he rescinds his decree and postpones the referendum.
“The president now must leave; he is a president for the Brotherhood. He didn’t respect the judiciary, the people, or the constitution. He wants to turn the country into a Brotherhood nation,” said Tamer Sherif, a 38-year-old engineer protesting outside the palace.
Also Friday, the head of Egypt’s election committee said the planned voting of Egyptians who live abroad on the disputed draft constitution had been postponed, the Associated Press reported.
Ismail Hamdi reportedly said that the weeklong expatriate voting, which had been due to begin Saturday, will begin Wednesday instead.