Morsi clings to legitimacy

The New York Times reports: Brushing aside a military ultimatum and his deepening isolation, President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt declared on Tuesday that he was the legitimate leader of the country and blamed the spiraling and violent national crisis on what he repeatedly called the corrupt “remnants of the former regime” overthrown in the 2011 revolution.

In an emotional and rambling speech broadcast live on state television that extended past midnight into Wednesday morning, Mr. Morsi called on both his supporters and opponents to put aside their disagreements and unite behind him, and and hinted strongly that the country could fall into chaos if they did not.

“I am the president of Egypt,” Mr. Morsi said, invoking again and again what he called his constitutional mandate to remain in power.

“The remnants of the former regime, they are fighting against our democracy,” he said, referring to the toppled government of his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. “If they come back to the people they will be rejected. They are accustomed to corruption, rigging elections sucking dry the blood of the people.” He added: “They cannot thrive in democracy.”

It was Mr. Morsi’s most extensive rebuttal to the growing calls on him to resign from an ever-widening spectrum of the Egyptian population after a year-long tenure that has been riven with turmoil and growing disenchantment with him and his Islamist supporters.

Mr. Morsi also demanded that the Egyptian military rescind its ultimatum against him, which his supporters have described as the prelude to a military coup.

Mr. Morsi’s defiant message came amid a new outbreak of armed and lethal political violence as protesters massed to call for his ouster. As the clock ticked on the military’s two-day ultimatum for the president to ease the crisis, high-ranking aides abandoned him and dozens of his s supporters were hit by birdshot. At least seven people were reported killed. [Continue reading…]

Laura Rozen reports: The White House on Tuesday pushed back on a report that American officials are urging Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi to call early elections, in response to the largest anti-government demonstrations Egypt has ever witnessed. The comments seem intended to reduce any perception that Washington is trying to dictate any particular course of action to the Egyptian leadership.

“It is not accurate that the United States is ‘urging’ President Morsy to call early elections,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in an e-mail Tuesday to Al-Monitor.

“President Obama has encouraged President Morsy to take steps to show that he is responsive to the concerns of the Egyptian people and underscored that the current crisis can only be resolved through a political process,” Meehan continued. “As the President has made clear since the revolution, only Egyptians can make the decisions that will determine their future.”

The White House comment, responding to a CNN report Tuesday, didn’t seem to rule out that US officials may be discussing the option of early elections with Egyptian officials behind closed doors.

“We are saying to him, ‘Figure out a way to go for new elections,’” a senior US official told CNN. “That may be the only way that this confrontation can be resolved.”

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