Egypt's polarised political scene

Protesters clash near the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt (5 Dec 2012) Violence has again hit the streets of Cairo as rival protesters clashes

The crisis in Egypt only seems to be deepening.

In its simplest terms, it ranges supporters of the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi - including the powerful Muslim Brotherhood - against liberal, secular and revolutionary factions.

The latter believe the president and his supporters are trying to take near dictatorial powers to mould the new Egypt to their wishes, and must be stopped.

This has created new alliances and enmities in the kaleidoscope of Egypt's political drama.

There are more than 40 political parties in Egypt right now. Where once they were barely heard - or if heard, the authorities were not listening - now some Egyptians are starting to complain of the cacophony of competing voices.

President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to which he belongs head the Islamist faction that has become dominant in the past year. The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party is flanked by more radical Salafi parties.

On the street, as has been seen in the violence around the presidential palace, they can mobilise muscle to take on their opponents.

The opposition, which had long been fractured and unfocused, has coalesced around resistance and rejection of what they condemn as a power grab by the president and his supporters.

Egyptian opposition leaders Hamdeen Sabahi, second left, and Mohamed ElBaradei in Cairo (5 Dec 2012) Leaders including Mohammed ElBaradei are trying to give a unified voice to the opposition

A new group was founded, the National Salvation Front, after the president's decree giving himself near unlimited new powers last month.

It unites leading opposition figures, including the former Arab League head Amr Moussa, and Mohammed ElBaradei, the former head of the UN's nuclear watchdog.

Edged to near irrelevance before this latest crisis, they are now trying to regain centre stage and give a powerful, unified and respected voice to the opposition.

How much they will be listened to by the bitterly disillusioned young revolutionaries on the frontline of the protests is unclear.

The army, which played such a central role in permitting the conditions that made the fall of Hosni Mubarak inevitable, remains on the sidelines for now, trying to referee. The remnants of the old regime are also watching and waiting to see if they can gain from the instability.

The battle right now is over the president's powers and the draft constitution - all sides suggest there's still room for dialogue.

The question is whether the divisions etched deeper daily by violence and mistrust can be closed by compromise, if it emerges.

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