Morsi’s Misguided Decree

Egyptians continue street protests despite the decision of President Mohammed Morsi, to annul a controversial decree which placed him above judicial pronouncements

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Dec. 24, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

MOHAMMED Morsi, the new president of Egypt, probably under estimated the tolerance level of the Egyptians when he contemplated the promulgation of a controversial decree that places him above judicial review. That was his undoing. The decree has sparked off another round of protests similar to the ones that led to fall of Hussein Mubarak during the Arab spring which started in 2010.

The protest has forced Morsi to annul the decree. If it was left to stay, the decree would have given him an extraordinary power to go ahead with the planned referendum in the interest of peace. The protest was first kicked off by opposition parties who accused him and the Muslim Brotherhood of turning the country’s nascent democracy into a dictatorship. Mohamed ElBaradei, coordinator of the Egypt’s opposition coalition, said Morsi was the cause of the violence because the new decree and the draft constitution did not properly represent the aspirations and interests of the whole nation.

Egyptians protesting at Tahrir Square
Egyptians protesting at Tahrir Square

He explained that they were ready for dialogue if the Islamist leader would suspend the decree and postpone the referendum. “Today what is happening in the Egyptian streets – polarisation and division – is something that could and is actually drawing us to violence and could draw us to something worse. We are ready for dialogue if the constitutional decree is cancelled and the referendum on this constitution is postponed,” he said.

The opposition staged protests at the presidential palace and other streets of Cairo which made Morsi to flee the palace. The protesters were chanting “leave, leave” and holding Egyptian flags with “no to the constitution” written on them. Their decision was to stop Morsi, who placed himself above the country’s judiciary. “Our marches are against tyranny and to void constitutional decree and we won’t retract our position until our demands are met,” said one of the protesters.

The duelling demonstrations and violence are part of a political crisis that has left the country divided into two camps: Islamists versus an opposition made up of youth groups, liberal parties and large sectors of the public. Both sides have dug in their heels, signalling a protracted standoff.

Morsi said he framed the decree as an attempt to insulate Egypt’s constitutional assembly from being dissolved by judges appointed by his predecessor. Morsi, through his spokesman, explained that his intentions were clear. He said the president was working within judicial precedents to hold back efforts by the judges in dissolving the constituent assembly rather than putting his power above judicial scrutiny.

Mahmoud Meky, Egypt’s vice president, also said the opposition demands had to be respected and that government was working to amend the disputed articles in the constitution. He explained that the street mobilisation by both parties posed a real danger to Egypt. “If we do not put a stop to this phenomenon right away, where are we heading? We must calm down and embrace dialogue.”

The crisis has recorded heavy causalities; five people were reported dead with more than 350 people wounded in the clashes so far. Also five aides of Morsi have resigned their positions in protest over his handling of the crisis.

Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, said Egypt’s political crisis needs an urgent attention and called for dialogue on the new constitution to respect the rights of all citizens. William Hague, British Foreign Secretary, also called for restraint on all sides. He said Egypt’s authorities had to make progress on the transition in an inclusive manner and urged them to embrace dialogue.

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