By Harriet Fildes
Calls for mass protests to re-claim the streets of Egypt abound since President Mohamed Morsi assigned himself vast new powers and “appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh” according to ElBaradei, one of Morsi’s main opponents.
This refers to a decree stating that the President’s decisions cannot be overturned by any authority which, according to Sameh Ashour who spoke in a joint news conference yesterday, represents “the total execution of the independence of the judiciary.”
Thus, with judicial oversight thoroughly annihilated and control over both executive and legislative power which Morsi has retained since parliament’s lower assembly was dissolved.
This decree has been legitimised by Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood as necessary to “protect the revolution”, and is a temporary measure until a new parliament can be elected and whilst the constitution is being drafted. Reuters have quoted Morsi’s explanation of this surprise move with him stating that; “Victory does not come without a clear plan and this is what I have.”
But the Egyptian public are unlikely to stand for it. Already the Muslim Brotherhood’s offices have come under attack both in Ismailia and Port Said and clashes have occurred in Alexandria between pro and anti-Muslim Brotherhood forces with 3 people injured so far according to Mena, the state controlled media in Egypt.
Thousands have flocked to Tahrir Square in response to this decree, both his opposition, chanting vehemently “Morsi is Mubarak”, and his supporters who approve of this move as it will allow for the retrial of officials and security forces whose role in the killing of Egyptian protesters has largely gone unpunished.
Critics believe this move was facilitated by Egypt’s recent success in mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which, according to the BBC, must make Morsi “believe this will help him weather the domestic storm.”
The aim seems to be removing any remnants of Mubarak’s regime from the judiciary, and thus, hastening the writing of a new constitution which is becoming increasingly controversial given various legal disputes, and the removal of anyone challenging the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood from the assembly.
Without a legitimate constitution being settled upon by the Egyptian people in a referendum, Egypt has no chance of becoming democratic as the parliamentary elections cannot occur until after the referendum.