By Matthias Gebauer in Cairo
In the end, Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi took all of 35 minutes for his nationally televised speech Thursday night. And his intention was clear. During the entire day leading up to the appearance, Morsi’s advisors had repeatedly explained that the president wanted to explain himself and his policies to the people of Egypt and to inject calm into what has become the most severe crisis since the revolution against his predecessor Hosni Mubarak.
And it was certainly entertaining. Originally, the palace had announced that the speech would take place at 6 p.m. on Thursday, but then the “Address to the Great Egyptian Nation” kept getting pushed back until finally, at 10:30 p.m., Morsi turned up on national television in front of an Egyptian flag.
He need not have made the effort. The Islamist president didn’t accomplish a single one of his goals with his address, nor did he really try. Instead, his flowery rhetoric served merely to further deepen the deep divide between his supporters and the political oppositionfrom the youth movement, the left-leaning and secular parties and even the judiciary.
There wasn’t a hint of real concessions to the opposition. Even the BBC abruptly shut off its live broadcast of the speech after seven minutes because it offered nothing new.
Morsi made no overtures to his opponents, instead repeating that he would not budge from the decrees he issued at the end of November, granting him broad authority and removing checks on his powers from the judiciary. He even said that he would stick to the December 15 date for the referendum on the hastily composed Islamist constitution.