The unexpected decree by Mohamed Morsi, endowing the Egyptian president with sweeping powers, is initiating a virulent wave of protests. Once again, Tahir Square is witness to deep division brewing up in Egypt’s political climate, as it was prior to the overthrow of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
A wave of protests in Tahrir Square has already begun as Egyptians believe that Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood is seizing excess power. Protesting against the new decree, supporters gathered in Cairo. According to reports the protesters have set fire to Muslim Brotherhood offices in several other cities, including Suez, Port Said and Ismailia. Emboldened by his popularity in the international sphere after the success of Israel-Hamas peace deal, Morsi’s new powers provide immunity from Egypt’s legal systems and courts.The new decree, if implemented, will make it unviable for the judiciary to dissolve Egypt’s Constitution-drafting Assembly, which apparently is dominated by pro-Islamists.
The new move starkly echoes Egypt’s authoritarian past and manifests the rise of a powerful Morsi.The Egyptian president has successfully consolidated his position by taking over the reins of power from the Egyptian military which was overlooking Egypt’s transition to democracy. And now, the new powers bring the Egyptian judiciary under Morsi’s control. Morsi’s supporters approve the move on the ground that the judiciary has been impeding the drafting of a new constitution.
Reacting to the total control over all state powers, Nobel Laureate, Mr. ElBaradei tweeted, “(Mr.) Morsi today usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh. A major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences.” ElBaradei has always been critical of the political transition and considers it as “the stupidest transition in history.”
The protests brewing up in Tahrir square manifest the deep polarization in Egyptian society between Islamists and their opponents–who represent liberals, leftists and secular-minded Egyptians.
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood endorses Morsi’s latest moves on grounds of removing the obstructionist judges and cleaning up loose ends of Mubarak’s regime, determined to undermine the transition to democracy.
On the other hand, Morsi’s opponents fear that the new powers show signs of a return of the dictatorial rule, even though the president has promised to give up his new powers following the election of parliament.