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What is Egypt's 'rebel' opposition asking for?

Women chant slogans during a protest outside the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, on Tuesday. Hassan Ammar / AP

Egypt's grassroots Tamarod protest movement claims to have collected 22 million signatures - almost half the country's 50 million eligible voters - on a petition demanding that President Mohammed Morsi stand down just 12 months after being elected to a four-year term.

Tamarod, which means “rebel” in Arabic, blames Morsi for the collapse of the country's economy.

The opposition movement's website says "the average citizen still has the feeling that nothing has been achieved so far from the revolution goals which were life in dignity, freedom, social justice and national independence" during Morsi's year as president.

Morsi was elected in the wake of a 2011 revolt that ended autocratic Hosni Mubarak's decades in power but protesters say change has been slow.

“We see Mubarak’s face in Morsi,” said Hesham Hegazi, a Pennsylvania-based spokesman for Tamarod. “The people chanting in Tahrir Square [in 2011] were chanting for democracy, social justice and freedom, which didn’t happen. We still have people going to jail because they don’t agree with the government."

According to the Associated Press, Tamarod was founded by five activists. Its leadership is a central group of about 25, connected to a network of coordinators in Egypt's 27 provinces, each with a team of volunteers in towns and villages.

Opposition demonstrations marking the June 30 anniversary of Morsi's election attracted millions of people to the streets last weekend.

While the movement may have its roots in the demonstrations which toppled Mubarak, Islam AlTayeb, a Middle East analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said Tamarod included more of the Egyptian population. 

“It became a more inclusive grassroots campaigning, rather than an organized official opposition,” she said. “I think [this] is what made them connect and resonate quite well on the Egyptian streets. They were able to connect quite well with the people and collect as many signatures as they did, over the short period of time."

She added that "simmering with anger" in the country made the formation of movement like Tamarod inevitable.

Tamarod's website also criticizes Morsi’s government for "following the footsteps of the USA" as well as “begging” for loans from the International Monetary Fund.

But Hegazi played down the anti-American rhetoric, saying that most of the demonstrators wanted the similar freedoms to those in the U.S.

“We are pleased that President Obama is taking an interest,” he said. “What he said about democracy not being just about elections is exactly right.” 

Officials with Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood have cast doubt on the number of signatures Tamarod has collected. However, the unverified 22-million name tally would be nearly twice the number of votes Morsi received a year ago.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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