Nov 23, 2012
Shoe-throwing has escalated to building burning as demonstrators clash in Egpyt over Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mursi’s ‘coup-like’ decision to make his decisions above judicial review. The self-annointed omnipotence comes after the judiciary were about to undo the Islamist-dominated panel drawing up the country’s new constitution. This so-called “coup against legitimacy” has brought back painful memories as opposition leaders (ElBaradei) calls the ‘temporary dictator’ a “new pharaoh” – the same term of derision used against Mubarak when he was in power.
As Reuters notes, the protests and accusations are worryingly reminiscent of the 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising as the infamous Tahrir Square is dominated by calls of “the people want to bring down the regime.” The Muslim Brotherhood offices have been set ablaze as a consequence of this ‘decree’ and the US (a generous benefactor to Egypt’s military) is “very concerned about the possible huge ramifications of this declaration on human rights and the rule of law in Egypt.” But it is leading protesters that perhaps summarize the situation best: “The decree is basically a coup on state institutions and the rule of law that is likely to undermine the revolution and the transition to democracy, I worry Mursi will be another dictator like the one before him.”
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi’s decree exempting all his decisions from legal challenge until a new parliament was elected caused fury amongst his opponents on Friday who accused him of being the new Hosni Mubarak and hijacking the revolution.
Thousands of chanting protesters packed Tahrir Square, the heart of the 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising, demanding Mursi quit and accusing him of launching a “coup”. There were violent protests in Alexandria, Port Said and Suez.
Mursi’s aides said the presidential decree was to speed up a protracted transition that has been hindered by legal obstacles but Mursi’s rivals were quick to condemn him as a new autocratic pharaoh who wanted to impose his Islamist vision on Egypt.
“Mursi a ‘temporary’ dictator,” was the headline in the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.
Mursi, an Islamist whose roots are in the Muslim Brotherhood, also gave himself sweeping powers that allowed him to sack the unpopular general prosecutor and opened the door for a retrial for Mubarak and his aides.
The president’s decree aimed to end the logjam and push Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation, more quickly on its democratic path, the presidential spokesman said.
The president’s decree said any decrees he issued while no parliament sat could not be challenged, moves that consolidated his powers but look set to polarize Egypt further, threatening more turbulence in a nation at the heart of the Arab Spring.
“The people want to bring down the regime,” shouted protesters in Tahrir, echoing one of the chants that was used in the uprising that forced Mubarak to step down.
In Alexandria, north of Cairo, protesters ransacked an office of the Brotherhood’s political party, burning books and chairs in the streets. Supporters of Mursi and opponents clashed elsewhere in the city, leaving 12 injured.
A party building was also attacked by stone-throwing protesters in Port Said, and demonstrators in Suez threw petrol bombs that burned banners outside the party building.
The decree is bound to worry Western allies, particularly the United States, a generous benefactor to Egypt’s army, which effusively praised Egypt for its part in bringing Israelis and Palestinians to a ceasefire on Wednesday.
The West may become concerned about measures that, for example, undermine judicial independence. But one Western diplomat said it was too early to judge and his nation would watch how the decree was exercised in the coming days.
“We are very concerned about the possible huge ramifications of this declaration on human rights and the rule of law in Egypt,” Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, said at the United Nations in Geneva.
“The decree is basically a coup on state institutions and the rule of law that is likely to undermine the revolution and the transition to democracy,” Mervat Ahmed, an independent activist in Tahrir protesting against the decree, said. “I worry Mursi will be another dictator like the one before him.”
Leading liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei, who joined other politicians on Thursday night to demand the decree was withdrawn, wrote on his Twitter account that Mursi had “usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh”.
AIM TO END INSTABILITY
An assembly drawing up the constitution has yet to complete its work. Many liberals, Christians and others have walked out accusing the Islamists who dominate it of ignoring their voices over the extent that Islam should be enshrined in the new state.
Opponents call for the assembly to be scrapped and remade. Mursi’s decree protects the existing one and extends the deadline for drafting a document by two months, pushing it back to February, further delaying a new parliamentary poll.
Explaining the rationale behind the moves, the presidential spokesman said: “This means ending the period of constitutional instability to arrive at a state with a written constitution, an elected president and parliament.”
“There was a disease but this is not the remedy,” said Hassan Nafaa, a liberal-minded political science professor and activist at Cairo University.
“I can see from the reaction of the political forces that we are going towards more polarization between the Islamist front on one hand and all the others on the other. This is a dangerous situation,” he said, adding it could spark more street trouble.
The streets have been relatively quiet since Mursi took office, …
The new army leaders are now appointees of Mursi and have stepped back from politics. The military still wields hefty influence through its huge business interests and security role. But one analyst said the generals had been “neutralized.”
This article was posted: Friday, November 23, 2012 at 12:52 pm