In Egypt, Dueling Protests Over President Morsi’s New Powers
In the same week as he successfully mediated a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi granted himself new political powers, sparking rallies both for and against him on Friday.
The Islamist leader gained praise from President Obama and others on Wednesday for helping broker a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas leaders in Gaza after eight days of escalated fighting.
Then on Thursday, Morsi amended Egypt’s interim constitution to shield his decisions from judicial review or court orders. He also gave himself the power to enact any further changes to prevent “threats to the revolution”.
In response, thousands of protesters shouting anti-Morsi chants converged on Tahrir Square in Cairo — the focal point of the revolution that eventually ousted President Hosni Mubarak last year. Opponents also set fire to the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s political party, in several cities on the Suez Canal and in the port city of Alexandria. They accused him of launching a “coup” and demanded he go.
His supporters, however, congregated in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, waving flags and posters with his picture. Morsi said the decree was meant to ease the transition to democracy. “My duty is to move forward with the goals of the revolution and eliminate all obstacles of the past that we have,” he told the cheering crowd.
The decree would stay in effect until a new constitution is passed and parliamentary elections are held, which are expected in the spring, according to the Associated Press.