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Yet some Christians in these squares do wish to depose the president. "It will take more time to topple Morsi than Mubarak," said Mina Magdy of the Maspero Youth Union, a mostly Coptic revolutionary group.

"Christians must participate with all liberals and leftists, but as Egyptian citizens. They must come down to the street to march and join with others."

Morsi's opposition is not just in the street. Samir Marcos, Morsi's vice president for democratic transition and the most prominent Coptic member of his administration, has resigned.

"I refuse to remain [in my position]," he told the international Arab newspaper Asharq Alawsat, "in light of this presidential decision that is crippling to the democratic transition process … and which is contrary to what I am trying to achieve through my position."

Gendy fears even a temporary dictator could arrest the opposition on the grounds of national security. Magdy anticipates increasing degrees of escalation, including a march on the presidential palace and a boycott of Muslim Brotherhood-owned businesses. Yet even sober judgment finds the situation bleak and compromise difficult.

"It is early and far-fetched to consider him being ousted, but I pity him because of the desperate situation he created for himself," said Youssef Sidhom, editor-in-chief of the Coptic newspaper Watani.

One possibility emerges with the recent decision of the president of the constitutional assembly to finalize its work tomorrow, even though Morsi's decree gave the body two additional months. This would speed up the democratic process and limit the length of the president's absolute power.

This might also create a scenario where a weary public votes "Yes" in the constitutional referendum to follow, simply to end the deadlock and restore stability. In the process, liberals and Christians fear, the public would accept a flawed and religiously tinted constitution.

Of course, either way the people vote, a deadlock might continue. The Muslim Brotherhood will hold a rally on Saturday to support the president, whereas they previously canceled a competing protest out of fear for "bloodshed."

"In order to save Egypt from going back to square one—dropping into chaos and nearly civil war—we have to think of a compromise," said Sidhom. "But I fail to see how or where."

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