24 November 2012
Opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi staged massive rallies across the country Nov. 23 in protest at the Islamist leader’s decision to grant himself sweeping new powers that effectively free him of judicial oversight until a new charter is drafted.
Secularists rallied in Tahrir Square against the move, while protesters sacked Morsi’s party’s offices elsewhere.
Supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi staged rival rallies across Egypt, a day after he assumed sweeping powers with a decree that drew criticism that he was seeking to be a “new pharoah” and raised questions about the gains of last year’s uprising to oust Hosni Mubarak.
The offices of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, were set ablaze in the canal cities of Ismailiya and Port Said, state television reported. An FJP official told the Agence France-Presse that the party’s office was also stormed in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, where clashes broke out between rival demonstrators.
Secular opponents poured into Tahrir Square, joined by leading secular politicians Mohamed El Baradei, a former U.N. nuclear watchdog chief, and Amr Mussa, a former foreign minister and Arab League chief, after he issued a decree Nov. 22 granting his decisions immunity from judicial oversight. “Morsi a ‘temporary’ dictator,” was the headline in the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.
Morsi told supporters the next day that Egypt was on the path to “freedom and democracy.”
“Political stability, social stability and economic stability are what I want and that is what I am working for,” he told an Islamist rally outside the presidential palace, adding that he was working for social and economic stability and the rotation of power.
Praise to judiciary
He also praised the judiciary, but said he would uncover corrupt elements. “The Egyptian judiciary has been affected by what affected the nation. There are some in it who are trying to take cover. I will remove that cover,” he said, adding that he would work for the independence of the executive, judicial and legislative authorities and would never use legislation to settle scores.
“The opposition in Egypt does not worry me, but it has to be real and strong,” he said in response to his critics, claiming that his decree was meant to prevent “weevils” from the former regime stopping progress.
His opponents say he has become a dictator with even more power than former president Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in a popular mass uprising in early 2011.
On Nov. 22, the president undercut a hostile judiciary that had been considering whether to scrap an Islamist-dominated panel drawing up a new Constitution, by stripping judges of the right to rule on the case or to challenge his decrees.
The decision effectively places the president above judicial oversight until a new Constitution is ratified.
If the constitutional court annulled the constituent assembly, Morsi would have to pick a new one, prolonging its work and delaying parliamentary elections. Morsi sacked prosecutor general Abdel Meguid Mahmud, who he failed to oust last month amid strong misgivings among the president’s supporters about the failure to secure the convictions of more members of the old regime. Morsi appointed Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah to replace Mahmud. The decree also received concern from international bodies.
“We are very concerned about the possible huge ramifications of this declaration on human rights and the rule of law in Egypt,” Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, said at the United Nations in Geneva. “It is of utmost importance that [the] democratic process be completed in accordance with the commitments undertaken by the Egyptian leadership,” a spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
These commitments include “the separation of powers, the independence of justice, the protection of fundamental freedoms and the holding of democratic parliamentary elections as soon as possible,” he said.