The Egyptian president has issued a constitutional declaration protecting Egypt’s constitution-drafting assembly from dissolution, and replacing the prosecutor general. It also rules that none of the executive’s decisions can be overturned.
Morsi gave the Constituent Assembly a two month deadline to finish drafting a new constitution, ruling that no authority may dissolve it until the country’s defining document is completed.
He further ruled that no authority may dissolve the Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt’s parliament.
In a move likely to bring criticism that the Egyptian president is inappropriately expanding his powers, he also decreed that no laws or declarations passed by the president from the time of his inauguration until a new parliament is elected can be overturned by any authority, including the judiciary.
He further dismissed the country’s prosecutor general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, appointing Talaat Ibrahim to replace him for a four-year term.
Morsi had previously attempted to remove Mahmoud for his part in the acquittal of Hosni Mubarak-era officials implicated in the killings of protesters during last year’s popular revolution.
Morsi ordered the retrial of all those charged with killing or injuring protesters involved in the uprising. In addition, all Mubarak-era officials alleged to have terrorized protesters will be retried.
In light of the sweeping powers, Egyptian opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei accused Morsi of behaving like a “new pharaoh.”
In September, Egypt’s high administrative court upheld a controversial June ruling to dissolve the country’s parliament. The move was opposed by Morsi, whose Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) won more seats in the 2011-2012 parliamentary elections than any other faction.
Morsi threatened to override the move – which was instituted by the country’s military rulers and the Supreme Court of Egypt – once he took office. In July he reversed his position, saying he would respect the court’s decision that the parliament be dissolved.
The fate of the country’s burgeoning constitution stands on equally uncertain ground.
A court suspended the country’s first 100-member Constituent Assembly in April for being “unrepresentative of Egyptians.” The Supreme Administrative Court then dissolved it for containing members of parliament. The court said MPs who were responsible for electing members of the body were not supposed to be serving on it, thus making it unconstitutional.
The current Constituent Assembly – elected in June – also contains members of parliament in contravention to the March 2011 Constitutional Decree. While the country’s military rulers have so far left it in tact, its legal status is equally dubious.
The Constituent Assembly was previously scheduled to present a final draft of the country’s national charter by December 5.
The amendments come as violent street clashes between protesters and security forces in Cairo enter their fourth day. More than 72 people have been injured in the demonstrations, which kicked off on the one-year anniversary of street battles in which 42 people were killed.
Egyptian sources said that members of the Muslim Brotherhood – which founded the Freedom and Justice Party, which Morsi once chaired – have been asked not to leave the country in case they were needed to defend the president’s “revolutionary” decisions.