By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
CAIRO, Egypt — Last Thursday, Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi issued a controversial decree banning judicial challenges to his decisions, thereby nearly seizing near-absolute powers. The decree was met with heavy criticism, mostly from his opponents, who have held heavy protests throughout Egypt since his announcement. They have called the decree a “sudden snatch of sweeping powers.”
The decree also extends the work of the constituent assembly drafting Egypt’s constitution by eight weeks, in what is seen as a compromise between Islamists and other representatives as they work together to settle differences in determining the constitution. Mursi’s office said that it hopes the extension provides enough time for the political groups involved to find “common ground.”
Responding to the criticism, Yasser Ali, an aide to Mursi, said that the decree was limited to “sovereignty-related issues,” yet Mursi’s opponents believe otherwise.
In an effort to quell the turmoil created by the decree, Mursi met with the Supreme Judiciary Council last Monday in a five hour meeting. The Judiciary Council had also criticized the decree, calling it an assault on the branch’s independence. The decree prevents any judiciary body from dissolving the constitutional assembly. To protest the decree, many judges and prosecutors refused to come to court in Cairo and other cities during Sunday and Monday.
Meanwhile, protests throughout Egypt turned violent as pro and anti-Mursi demonstrators clashed with one another, leaving one protester dead and hundreds wounded. The Muslim Brotherhood planned to hold a rival rally this Tuesday, but cancelled it in an effort to ease public tension. The opposition will continue with their protests on Tuesday.
Among Mursi’s critics is Nobel Laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, who called Mursi Egypt’s new pharaoh, and has recently branded him as a God. “Morsi today usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh. A major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences,” said ElBaradei in a Twitter post.
Tharwat el-Kherbawy, a lawyer and former Muslim Brotherhood member, called those who accepted the decrees “slaves,” and his supporters “mutants.” Referring to the decree, el-Kherbawy said it was “not permissible for Mursi to make himself like a God.”
Amr Hamzawy, a liberal member of the dissolved parliament, said that the decree is a sign that Egypt was heading toward “an absolute presidential tyranny.”
The decree drew warnings from the West, who urged Mursi to uphold democracy.
Mursi says that his decisions were “necessary to protect the revolution that toppled Mubarak nearly two years ago and to cement the nation’s transition to democratic rule.”
For further information, please see:
Al Jazeera — Egypt’s Morsi Stands by Decree — 26 November 2012
BBC News — Egypt Crisis: Mohammed Mursi Tries to Defuse Tension — 26 November 2012
Al Bawaba — Morsi’s Power-Bender Reminds Egypt That Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely — 25 November 2o12
Al Ahram — Morsi Rocks the Boat — 23 November 2012