CAIRO—Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has declared a month-long state of emergency in three cities along the Suez Canal, where dozens of people have been killed during the past four days in protests that, his allies say, are intended to overthrow him.
A total of 49 people have been killed since Thursday and Morsi’s opponents, who accuse his Islamist Muslim Brotherhood of betraying the revolution that ousted long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak, have called for more demonstrations Monday.
Morsi, who was elected in June, is trying to fix a beleaguered economy and cool tempers before a parliamentary poll in the next few months which is supposed to cement Egypt’s transition to democracy. Repeated eruptions of violence have weighed heavily on the Egyptian pound.
In a televised address, he said a nightly curfew would be introduced in Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, starting Monday.
“The protection of the nation is the responsibility of everyone. We will confront any threat to its security with force and firmness within the remit of the law,” he said, offering condolences to families of the victims.
In Cairo, the newly appointed Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim was ejected from the funeral of one of the police officers who died during Saturday’s clashes in Port Said, according to witnesses and police sources.
A police officer at the funeral said many of his colleagues blame the interior minister for the deaths of at least two policemen during Saturday’s clashes as he did not allow the police there to carry weapons and were given only tear-gas bombs.
The violence has exposed a deep rift in the nation. Liberals and other opponents accuse Morsi of failing to deliver on economic promises and say he has not lived up to pledges to represent all Egyptians. His backers say the opposition is seeking to topple Egypt’s first freely elected leader.
“Of course we feel the president is missing the real problem on the ground which is his own polices,” spokesman Khaled Dawoud said. “His call to implement emergency law was an expected move given what is going on, namely thuggery and criminal actions.”
The Front, formed late last year when Morsi provoked protests and violence by expanding his powers and driving through an Islamist-tinged constitution, has threatened to boycott the parliamentary poll and call for more protests if its demands are not met, including for an early presidential vote.
State television said seven people died Sunday from gunshot wounds in Port Said.
A military source said many people in Port Said, which lies next to the increasingly lawless Sinai Peninsula, possess guns because they do not trust the authorities to protect them. However it was not clear who was behind the deaths and injuries.
In Cairo, police fired tear gas at dozens of protesters throwing stones and petrol bombs in a fourth day of clashes over what demonstrators there and in other cities say is a power grab by Islamists two years after Mubarak was overthrown.
In Ismailia, which lies on the Suez Canal between the cities of Suez and Port Said, police fired tear gas at protesters attacking a police station with petrol bombs and stones, according to witnesses.
“It is a classic knee-jerk reaction to think the emergency law will help bring security,” she said. “It gives so much discretion to the Ministry of Interior that it ends up causing more abuse which in turn causes more anger.”
Many Egyptians are frustrated by the violence that has hurt the economy and their livelihoods.
“They are not revolutionaries protesting,” said taxi driver Kamal Hassan, 30. “They are thugs destroying the country.”