CAIRO — Thousands of opposition protesters converged on Egypt’s presidential palace Friday night, breaking through barbed-wire barricades and chanting slogans against President Mohammed Morsi, in defiance of his call Thursday for a national dialogue to bridge the country’s expanding political divide.
Opposition leaders rejected Morsi’s invitation to meet for discussions on Saturday after more than two weeks of political crisis that has pitted the president and his Islamist backers against a broad coalition of liberals and secularists. Morsi’s critics said his speech to the nation Thursday and moves by his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood on Friday did more to fan the flames than quell them.
The competing rhetoric and scenes of defiance underscored how the population has been polarized as it struggles to define the balance of power in the country nearly two years after the forces now opposing each other joined hands in the mass uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
Amid calls for a delay to the scheduled Dec. 15 vote on a contentious draft constitution, Egypt’s High Election Commission said Friday that it would postpone overseas voting on the charter. The move raised hopes among some that Morsi might be moving toward making concessions.
But a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, which backs Morsi, said Friday that a delay to next week’s vote would be possible only if the opposition heeded the president’s invitation to dialogue.