Egypt Boils Over Morsi’s ‘Power Grab’

Human Wrongs Watch

By Shahira Amin for RIA Novosti*, 28 November 2012, Cairo — After five days of angry street protests that left a Muslim Brotherhood supporter dead in the Nile Delta City of Damanhour, Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has decided to scale back sweeping powers he seized last week that would make him immune to judicial oversight.

**Morsi | Photo: Stefan Rousseau | Source: | Wikimedia Commons

**Morsi | Photo: Stefan Rousseau | Source: | Wikimedia Commons

In a televised press briefing earlier this week, Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said that the President has full respect for the judiciary . He explained that the new powers would be limited, allowing the President to make unilateral decisions only on “sovereign matters.”

No definition of the term was provided indicating that it would be up to the President alone to decide on what he considered as ‘sovereign’.

President Morsi had earlier defended his new powers insisting they were “temporary but necessary to complete the democratic transition.

Backtrack to Defuse Tensions

“His motive, he said, was to protect state institutions like the Shoura or Consultative Council (the upper house of parliament) and the Constituent Assembly, both of which are under threat of being dissolved when a court decides next week on their “constitutionality.

The President has given the constituent panel a two-month timeline to finish drafting the constitution, hoping that rival liberals and Islamists on the panel would be able to reach consensus on the draft charter. The document would then be put to a popular referendum, paving the way for legislative elections to be held.

Yasser Ali also said that former regime loyalists and henchmen charged with killing the protesters during the January 2011 uprising would be re-tried “only if new evidence emerged.”

While some analysts believe the announcement signals a backtrack by the President in a bid to defuse tensions ahead of a million-people rally called by his opponents for Tuesday, Ali stopped short of admitting that the President had rescinded his earlier statement.

The President’s concessions were made after he held talks with senior judges on Monday that lasted several hours. Judges had earlier threatened a nationwide strike if the President does not revoke his decree.

The country has also been threatened with deeper economic turmoil after Egypt’s stock market plunged to its lowest levels yet since the uprising began, following the announcement of the controversial edict.

Political Opponents Not Appeased

The statements by the presidential spokesman failed, however, to appease political opponents who went ahead with their planned rally on Tuesday to protest the perceived ‘power grab’.

Tens of thousands of protesters filled Tahrir Square on Tuesday chanting “Oh Brotherhood, you are the National Democratic Party all over again” (reference to the ousted ruling party) and “Down with the regime.” Setting up new tents in the square, the protesters – mostly liberals, leftists and political forces – vowed to continue their sit-in until President Morsi annuls his decree.

“We did not have a revolution to replace a fascist dictator with another,” 40 year-old entrepreneur Ibrahim El Toukhy said, adding “we have to send a clear message to the president that we will no longer tolerate such tactics.”

“Not even the pharaohs had so much authority,” — El Baradei

In an interview with Der Spiegel, posted on the internet a day earlier, reform leader Mohamed El Baradei slammed President Morsi saying he had gone too far.

“Not even the pharaohs had so much authority,” he said, describing Morsi’s move as “catastrophic.” He added that the presidential decree “makes a mockery of the revolution that brought Morsi to power.”

Speaking to independent news channel Al Horra, Former Presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik called Morsi’s edict “unacceptable deception.”

“He warned the Muslim Brotherhood against “humiliating Egyptians,” reminding them that they would not be in power long if they continued their “manipulative ways.”

Muslim Brotherhood supporters meanwhile called off their own rally that was to have been staged outside Cairo University to avert confrontation with the opposition activists. Since Thursday, several offices of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party had been stormed and set ablaze by vandals.

Anti-Islamist opponents are deeply suspicious of President Morsi’s “real” intentions and remain steadfast in their refusal to compromise. With no sign of the tensions abating, Egyptians are wondering where the crisis will lead.

]One thing is certain, it will be a while yet before the decades-old legacy of fear of the Brotherhood, long demonized as “the bogeyman” by the country’s former rulers, is erased.

Only then, can the deep divisions plaguing Egypt be overcome and stability restored.

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*Shahira Amin is an Egyptian journalist, the former deputy head of Egyptian state-owned Nile TV and one of its senior anchors. *Her was published by RIA Novosti. Go to Original.


**Morsi | Photo: Stefan Rousseau | Source: | Wikimedia Commons

One Comment to “Egypt Boils Over Morsi’s ‘Power Grab’”

  1. The truth is that all the present stakeholders in this new Egypt have not yet tasted the elixir of democracy. They have to drink slowly and gradually.


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