Saturday, November 24, 2012

Protests Erupt as Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Grants Himself Sweeping New Powers

Consider this a combination of 'Meet the new boss, same as the old boss' and a sarcastic 'Gee- didn't see that coming', Egypt's new president has granted himself broad new- what some are calling dictatorial- powers this week.

Clashes between police and protesters broke out in Cairo and Alexandria not even a full day after Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi issued a proclamation that granted himself sweeping new powers. The decree reportedly shields any decisions by him from any challenge by Egypt's judicial branch and has led to domestic and international observers dubbing the president 'Pharoah Morsi'.

Earlier in the week, Morsi had won international praise for attempting to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after the IDF retaliated against a continuous barrage of rockets from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Not surprisingly, Egypt's judiciary slammed Morsi's proclamation- which seemed to be directed almost exclusively at the court system and the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court.
Egypt's liberal and secular forces -- long divided, weakened and uncertain amid the rise of Islamist parties to power -- are seeking to rally themselves in response to the decrees issued this week by President Mohammed Morsi. The president granted himself sweeping powers to "protect the revolution" and made himself immune to judicial oversight.

The judiciary, which was the main target of Morsi's edicts, pushed back Saturday. The country's highest body of judges, the Supreme Judical Council, called his decrees an "unprecedented assault." Courts in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria announced a work suspension until the decrees are lifted.

Outside the high court building in Cairo, several hundred demonstrators rallied against Morsi, chanting, "Leave! Leave!" echoing the slogan used against former leader Hosni Mubarak in last year's uprising that ousted him. Police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of young men who were shooting flares outside the court.

The edicts issued Wednesday have galvanized anger brewing against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, from which he hails, ever since he took office in June as Egypt's first freely elected president. Critics accuse the Brotherhood -- which has dominated elections the past year -- and other Islamists of monopolizing power and doing little to bring real reform or address Egypt's mounting economic and security woes.

Opposition groups have called for new nationwide rallies Tuesday -- and the Muslim Brotherhood has called for rallies supporting Morsi the same day, setting the stage for new violence.
Some observers believe that Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood allies in Egypt's Parliament are attempting to consolidate power while there is still some goodwill from the international community for brokering a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel and before more secular, pro-democracy factions in Egypt could galvanize and pose any significant opposition to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled government.

Although the Egyptian military has been conspicuous by their silence, there are reports in Arabic-language media that Egyptian officers tacitly approve of the anti-Morsi demonstrations taking place throughout the nation. This could lead to a tenuous alliance between Egypt's military and the nation's Supreme Constitutional Court- many of whom still have officers and officials appointed by the Mubarak regime- and the 'Arab Spring' protesters who ultimately ousted the former Egyptian strongman. Hosni Mubarak has been incarcerated and is reportedly in poor health since June.

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