In the meantime, an Islamist-dominated Constitutional Assembly pushes through a draft constitution that is likely to severely curtail political and religious rights in the country. Within this context, one indeed begins to wonder if a democratically elected Morsi is indeed the new Mubarak.
In scenes reminiscent of the mass demonstrations that eventually resulted in the downfall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, thousands have gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to protest against a November 22 Presidential decree issued by the current President Mohamed Morsi – the first democratically elected leader of the most populous Arab nation.
The November ruling prevents judicial review of any decisions that Morsi has made since assuming office up until the new post-Mubarak constitution is accepted. The edict also prevents interference from the courts in the work of Egypt’s Constituent Assembly, the body charged with drafting a new constitution. Representatives of the Christian minority and non-Islamist parties have recently commented on the non-representative nature of the Constitutional Assembly.
More specifically, the opposition and minority groups pointed to severe marginalization of non-Islamists and the absolute dominance of Islamists within the Assembly, and the Islamists’ unwillingness to negotiate on the proposed articles. Placing Constitutional Assembly above the law, Morsi’s decree ultimately ‘outlawed’ such concerns.
Despite the President’s insistence that the present order was merely temporary and was designed to protect the spirit of the 2011 revolution, the decree gave Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-backers unchecked power and sharply divided Egypt’s society. As the Muslim Brotherhood “stood by their man”, Egypt's liberal and often splintered opposition united in their grave concerns about such an alarming and profoundly undemocratic power grab – a step back towards an authoritarian governance that the left-leaning and liberal Egyptians – who currently make a large component of protestors in Tahrir Square – have only recently overthrown. Following this line of reasoning, protestors accuse Morsi of becoming a “new pharaoh” and “dictator” and claim that this is “not what they asked for”.
Lalek Khalili of the SOAS University, London, has recently suggested in her interview for CNN that “in some ways, the liberal and left-wing forces are trying to stake a claim to the revolution again through the protests”. Ms. Khalili also contended that “the anger on the streets also reflected a level of public dissatisfaction with progress made since the revolution in addressing issues of poverty and inequality in a country with an unemployment rate of more than 12%. Many of the original grievances behind the revolution were derived from questions around extreme inequality and corruption. Those issues have not been addressed. The protests represent a perfect storm of many grievances coming to the fore, and it is not clear how it would play out. It is a fundamental challenge to the legitimacy of the regime”.
Crucially, however, the gravest concerns about Morsi’s decree stem from the fears that not only is there no guarantee that Morsi will relinquish power after the constitution is accepted, but that Morsi will use the edict to “hijack” the process of drafting the new constitution producing a document that will ultimately reflect the interests of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. Unfortunately, one has to admit that these fears are not ungrounded.
While the draft constitution maintains the principles of sharia as the main source of legislation (a position that never changed from the provisions of 1971 Mubarak constitution), experts say it could lead to excessive restrictions on freedoms and minority rights of many Egyptians. Under its articles the legal framework governing religious minorities and their rights to equality and protection would be undermined beyond salvage. In this respect, Mohamed Naeem, a member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, expressed his fears that the proposed constitution would open the way for a theocracy by moving the country closer to sharia law.
Comparing the provisions of the 1971 constitution and Morsi’s draft, Samuel Tadros of the National Review suggests the Islamist influence is readily apparent. Tadros claims that the new constitution adds the word “shura” to the language about the basis of the political system. Traditionally, the “shura” connotes an unelected Islamist consultative process that Islamistsclaim is equivalent to democracy. Tadros continues that the draft also “removes the existing prohibition on the establishment of religiously based political parties, asserting, instead, a prohibition on political parties based on discrimination. This new language, thus, allows for the establishment of purely religious parties. An anti-blasphemy clause was added as Article 44. A new article, 219, purports to define the principles of sharia, which, according to Article 2, are the main sources of legislation. It states that the principles of sharia include: its total evidence, its fundamental and jurisprudence basis, its accepted sources in the doctrines of Sunnis”. Based on Tadros’ analysis, it can indeed be seen that Egypt’s new constitution, if accepted during December 15 referendum, will profoundly shift the balance of interests toward the Islamists.
All in all, Morsi’s actions and the growing anger over them can be seen as the harshest test yet for Egypt’s newly found democratic experiment and with the referendum in just eight days next week is likely to become the decisive week for Egypt’s democracy.
Egypt's opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, will meet on Friday to review a call by President Mohamed Morsi for a national dialogue to resolve a crisis after his decision to expand his powers, a leading opposition politician said.
"We have decided to meet this afternoon and discuss the whole issue and the proposal and speech by the president. We want a collective stand on that," Amr Moussa, a presidential candidate and former Arab League chief, told Reuters, adding the precise time had yet to be finalised.
Among the demands of the liberal leaning Front, Moussa said the opposition coalition believed a referendum on a draft constitution, rushed through by an Islamist-dominated assembly, should be delayed from Dec. 15.
The opposition in Egypt is going to again march on the presidential palace in Cairo.
According to the opposition leaders, at least 18 columns are due to be formed following traditional Friday’s prayers to march on the national leader’s residence from different areas of the capital city.
The protesters will demand that President Mohamed Morsi step down and that the Muslim Brotherhood leaders who perpetrated a massacre outside the palace late on Wednesday night be put on trial.
Six people died, while more than 700 others were injured in the Islamists’ attack. Tanks and other armoured vehicles have been concentrated around the palace, while the building has been encircled with barbed wire.
Last night, the opposition rejected the president’s appeal for dialogue, since Morsi gave to understand in his TV address that he would make no concessions, specifically, he would not cancel his constitutional declaration that grants him sweeping powers.
Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has called the opposition to dialogue in a televised live address .
“I call for a full, productive dialogue with all figures and heads of parties, revolutionary youth and senior legal figures to meet this Saturday,” Mr. Morsi said.
The opposition movements in Egypt distrust President Mohamed Morsi’s proposal for launching a dialogue to bring the situation in Egypt back to normal.
The April 6 youth movement, which played a prominent role in the Egyptian revolution that resulted in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak has said on its Facebook page that Friday’s protests will prove the “red card” for Morsi.
The National Salvation Front, set up to unify the opposition forces, has thus far failed to respond to the President’s appeal.
A spokesman for the Front has said that the Front leaders and the youth are still discussing the proposal.
Morsi appeared live on state television last night to urge all parties to the conflict to hold a dialogue on Saturday to put an end to unrest in Egypt.
Seven people have been killed in protests to date. The Cairo-based headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which Morsi represents, was burnt down late on Thursday night.
Egypt’s National Salvation Front of major liberal democratic parties and movements is studying President Mohamed Morsi’s proposal for holding a dialogue on Saturday to settle the current political crisis in the country.
This came in a statement by the Front’s official spokesman Hussein Abdelghani.
The Front chiefs are due to hold a brief conference Friday to discuss Morsi’s proposal and agree an official response.
Early this Friday, Morsi invited the leaders of all political parties and movements to meet on Saturday for a nation-wide dialogue.
The President specifically suggests discussing the powers of the Consultative Council, the law on elections, as well as drawing up a “road map” for Egypt’s development after a referendum on the new constitution.
Voice of Russia, BBC, RIA, TASS, Interfax