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Egypt mass protests challenge Islamist president
“People woke up to his (Morsi‘s) mistakes, and in any new elections they will get no votes,” said Magdi, who was among a crowd of around 10, 000 marching from the Cairo district of Shubra to Tahrir to the beat of drums and chants against the Brotherhood. Reform leader Mohammed ElBaradie led the march.
Former presidential candidate Amr Moussa, now a prominent opposition leader, said the protest showed “where the nation’s political forces stand on the constitutional declaration.”
“Wisdom dictates that the declaration must be reconsidered,” Moussa, a former Arab League chief, told the private CBC TV station by telephone.
Morsi says the decrees are necessary to protect the “revolution” and the nation’s transition to democratic rule.
His declaration made all his decisions immune to judicial review and banned the courts from dissolving the upper house of parliament and an assembly writing the new constitution, both of which are dominated by Islamists. The decree also gave Morsi sweeping authority to stop any “threats” to the revolution, public order or state institutions. The powers would last until the constitution is approved and parliamentary elections are held, not likely before spring 2013.
In a series of Tweets, the Brotherhood dismissed the rallies, saying even while the square was packed that the turnout was “low” and showed a lack of support for the opposition.
Morsi’s supporters canceled a massive rally they had planned for Tuesday in Cairo, citing the need to “defuse tension” after a series of clashes between the two camps since the decrees were issued Thursday. Morsi’s supporters say more than a dozen of their offices have been ransacked or set ablaze since Friday. Some 5,000 demonstrated in the southern city of Assiut in support of Morsi’s decrees, according to witnesses there.
The opposition says the decrees give Morsi near dictatorial powers by neutralizing the judiciary at a time when he already holds executive and legislative powers. Leading judges have also denounced the measures.
But many who joined Tuesday’s protests lashed out more broadly against the rule of Morsi, who came to office in June as Egypt’s first freely elected president. For months, criticism has been growing that Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists are monopolizing power in the government and trying to dictate the next constitution while not doing enough to tackle the country’s multiple economic and security woes.
A fellow protester, Saad Salem Nada, said, “I am a Muslim and he made me hate Muslims because of the dictatorship in the name of religion. In the past, we had one Mubarak, now we have hundreds,” referring to the Brotherhood.
On Monday, Morsi met with the nation’s top judges and tried to win their acceptance of his decrees. But the move was dismissed by many in the opposition and the judiciary as providing no real concessions.
Morsi told the judges that he acted within his rights as the nation’s sole source of legislation, assuring them that the decrees were temporary and did not in any way infringe on the judiciary, according to presidential spokesman Yasser Ali, who said the president had no plans to change or amend his decrees.
According to a presidential statement late Monday, Morsi told the judges that his decree meant that any decisions he makes on “issues of sovereignty” are immune from judicial review.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
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