Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Egypt Gets a New Pharaoh

Egypt's Islamist president unilaterally decreed greater authorities for himself and effectively neutralized a judicial system that had emerged as a key opponent by declaring that the courts are barred from challenging his decisions. President Mohammed Morsi put himself above oversight and gave protection to the Islamist-led assembly writing a new constitution from a looming threat of dissolution by court order.

But the move is likely to fuel growing public anger that he and his Muslim Brotherhood are seizing too much power.

In what was interpreted by rights activists as a de facto declaration of emergency law, one of Morsi's decrees gave him the power to take "due measures and steps" to deal with any "threat" to the revolution, national unity and safety or anything that obstructs the work of state institutions.

Morsi said his decisions are necessary to protect the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago and to cement the nation's transition to democratic rule. Many activists, including opponents of the Brotherhood, criticize the judiciary as packed with judges and prosecutors sympathetic to Mubarak. Brotherhood supporters accuse the courts of trying to block their agenda.

Morsi also ordered the retrial of Mubarak and top aides on charges of killing protesters during the uprising. He also created a new "protection of the revolution" judicial body to swiftly carry out the prosecutions. But he did not order retrials for lower-level police acquitted of such killings, another widespread popular demand that would disenchant the security forces if carried out.

Liberal politicians immediately criticized the decrees as dictatorial and destined to divide a nation already reeling from months of turmoil following Mubarak's ouster. Some said they exceeded the powers once enjoyed by Mubarak.

"Morsi today usurped all state powers & appointed himself Egypt's new pharaoh," pro-reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei wrote on Twitter. "A major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences."
Opposition groups called for mass protests Friday to demand the dissolution of the declarations. The prospect of large rival protests involving Morsi's opponents and supporters in Cairo on Friday raises the likelihood of clashes. Thousands from the rival camps were already out on the streets of Cairo late Thursday in an increasingly charged atmosphere.

The moves come as Morsi basks in lavish praise from President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for mediating an end to eight days of fighting between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers. Clinton was in Cairo on Wednesday, when she held extensive talks with Morsi.

Live Long and Prosper...

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