The French press agency headline said it clearly: “Egypt’s Morsi assumes sweeping powers, branded new pharaoh.”
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi sparked intense controversy around the world by issuing a decree giving himself virtually dictatorial powers and contradicting the assumption that he—and his Muslim Brotherhood organization—intend to rule democratically.
In addition the decree from Morsi shielded a largely Islamist-dominated assembly, which is writing Egypt’s new constitution, from legal challenge.
According to the decree, which shocked many Egyptians, “The President may take the necessary actions and measures to protect the country and the goals of the revolution.”
It gave the same protection to the upper house of parliament, dominated by Islamists allied to Morsi, and assigned the president new powers that allowed him to sack the Mubarak-era prosecutor general and appoint a new one.
It stated that all decisions taken by Morsi until the election of a new parliament were exempt from legal challenge.
Presented as a move to “protect the revolution”, the decree won immediate praise from Morsi’s allies but stoked fears among secular-minded Egyptians that the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies aim to dominate the new Egypt. It seemed likely to deepen the divisions that have plagued the post-Mubarak era.
As John J. Xenakis reports at Breitbart.com, writes,
“Many Egyptians were shocked on Thursday by the announcement, accompanied by nationalistic music, of a new decree by President Mohamed Morsi granting himself extensive additional powers. Any decisions that he took since taking office in June, and any decisions he takes in the future, are final and not subject to review by the courts or appeal.”
Opponents accused Morsi, who has issued a decree that puts his decisions above legal challenge until a new parliament is elected, of being the new Mubarak and hijacking the revolution.
“The people want to bring down the regime,” shouted protesters in Tahrir, echoing a chant used in the uprising that forced Mubarak to step down. “Get out, Morsi,” they chanted, along with “Mubarak tell Morsi, jail comes after the throne.”
Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei wrote on his Twitter account, “Morsi today usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh. A major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences.”
Police fired tear gas near Cairo’s Tahrir Square, heart of the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, where thousands demanded Morsi quit and accused him of launching a “coup”. There were violent protests in Alexandria, Port Said and Suez.
Thursday’s decisions were read on state television by Morsi’s spokesman, Yasser Ali. In a throwback to the days of the authoritarian Mubarak and his predecessor Anwar Sadat and Gamal Abdel-Nasser, the television followed up with a slew of nationalist songs.