CAIRO -- Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets Sunday, some in support of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and others to call for his ouster. Here is a look at Egypt's current political standoff, what it means and where it could lead:
Who is leading the campaign against Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood?
A new youth movement called Tamarod, or Rebel, is spearheading the latest campaign aimed at forcing Morsi from office. The group launched a petition drive around three months ago to collect signatures from Egyptians who want the president to step down. Tapping into growing discontent with Morsi over what his critics allege is his failure to effectively tackle the country's pressing problems, Tamarod claims it has collected more than 22 million signatures. The petitions have no legal weight and have not been independently authenticated, but the tally would be -- if verified -- nearly twice the number of votes Morsi received a year ago when he narrowly won the presidency. The main collection of opposition groups, the National Salvation Front, has endorsed Tamarod, and parties under the NSF umbrella helped collect signatures.
Can the opposition really force Morsi to step down?
Morsi, who has three years left in his four-year term, says he has no intention of resigning. The Tamarod organizers and opposition figures say protesters will not leave the streets until he does. If both sides stick to their guns, then the standoff could last for days, maybe even weeks. There are other factors at play, however. If the large numbers in Sunday's mass protests are repeated for days, and are later reinforced by strikes and a civil disobedience campaign, the country would grind to a standstill and significantly ratchet up the pressure on Morsi.
Still, the Muslim Brotherhood, the fundamentalist group that propelled Morsi to power, has shown little sign of backing down. The group points to Morsi's election victory in a vote that is widely recognized to have been free and fair, and says that forcing Morsi from office will set a dangerous precedent for his successors, an argument Morsi cited in an interview with The Guardian published on Sunday. The only way to challenge Morsi, his supporters say, is through the ballot box.
What about the army?
The army chief, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, called on Morsi and the opposition a week ago to reach an understanding and warned that the military would intervene if the country plunges into civil strife. The remarks were the strongest from the military on the nation's political turmoil since Morsi appointed el-Sissi last August. Since those comments, the army has dispatched reinforcements to bases outside cities across the nation and deployed troops backed by armored vehicles outside vital facilities.