Egypt President Mohamed Morsi has on Sunday declared a 30-day state of emergency in Port Said, Suez and Ismailia, the three governorates which have witnessed deadly clashes since the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution on 25 Jan.
During a speech broadcast on state television, the under-fire Morsi has also said a curfew will be imposed in the three cities from 9 pm to 6 am during the duration of the emergency state in an attempt to curb increasing violence.
The Islamist president’s decisions take effect from Monday.
“I always said I’m against any exceptional measures, but I also said I might resort to such measures if I had to. I may even do more for the sake of Egypt, it’s my duty,” a glum-looking Morsi added.
Morsi was criticised by his opponents for what they perceived as his poor reaction to nationwide clashes that left dozens dead, including more than 30 in restive city Port Said.
Anger boiled in the coastal city over a court verdict that sentenced 21 football fans to death after they were convicted of killing the supporters of Cairo-based club Ahly in last year’s infamous disaster in Port Said.
Clashes are still ongoing in Port Said, with angry protesters and police forces reportedly firing gunshots at each other. Army was deployed in Port Said and Suez, another city which is a scene of constant confrontations, but it has so far failed to contain the growing violence.
“I instructed interior ministry officials to strictly deal with whoever threatens the people, public and private institutions. Everybody should be aware that Egypt’s institutions are capable of defending the country against any threats,” Morsi added.
Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, also saluted the army and police for “their efforts to protect the country”.
“The recent acts have nothing to do with the revolution, they are against the law and incited by counter revolution. The Egyptian people reject such actions, which are condemned by honorable revolutionaries,” he said.
Morsi has also reiterated calls for national dialogue, which he described as necessary to overcome the ongoing turmoil that has plunged Egypt into deep economic and political crises.
“We have no option but to engage in a dialogue, this is the only way to pass the current phase and achieve stability,” he stated.
“I decided to invite the political figures for a national dialogue tomorrow.”
The National Salvation front, Egypt’s main opposition, listed five demands that included forming a new government and amending the “distorted constitution”, which was approved by around 64 per cent of Egyptian voters in a national referendum last month.
Opposition says the new constitution does not fulfill the goals of the revolution because it “disregards” the rights of women and the minorities, including Christians who make up about 10% of Egypt’s population.
Morsi supporters believe the new constitution puts Egypt on the right path to democracy.
The Brotherhood, oppressed for decades by military strongmen, propelled Morsi into power in Egypt’s first free elections last year.