Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi has assumed sweeping powers, drawing flak that he is acting like a “new pharaoh” and is endangering the gains of the popular uprising which ousted Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorial regime.

Mursi made the constitutional declaration yesterday that granted him far-reaching powers and also ordered retrials of officials involved in the killing of protesters during the 2011 mass uprising against the Mubarak regime.

The decision came a day after the President was praised by world leaders for brokering a truce between Hamas and Israel.

Yesterday’s constitutional declaration has sparked a fierce debate in the country, with supporters calling it “revolutionary” and detractors slamming the sweeping powers it grants Egypt’s presidency as a “coup“.

The opposition has called for nationwide protests.

The declaration made yesterday also said no court can dissolve the Constituent Assembly, which is drawing up a new constitution.

The Constituent Assembly’s timeline for drafting the new constitution has also been extended by two months.

Mursi, 61, also sacked the chief prosecutor and ordered the re-trial of people accused of attacking protesters when ex-President Mubarak held office.

According to the declaration, all investigations into the killing of protesters or the use of violence against them will be re-conducted. Trials of those accused will be re-held.

All constitutional declarations, laws and decrees made since Mursi assumed power on June 30, 2012, cannot be appealed or cancelled by any individual, or political or governmental body, according to the declaration.

The president is authorised to take any measures he sees fit in order to preserve the revolution, to preserve national unity or to safeguard national security.

The essence of the declaration guards decisions of Mursi against annulment by the judiciary and gives him almost autocratic rule.

Egyptian opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei accused Mursi of acting like a “new pharaoh”. ElBaradei said the new declaration effectively placed the president above the law.

“Mursi has usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh. A major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences,” Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, wrote on his Twitter account.

Mursi also issued additional pensions to all those who during the revolution and subsequent clashes sustained partial or full paralysis or blindness, or other injuries preventing them for working as decided by the health committee, and to those who are over the age of 55 and sustained any injuries.

The amount of the pension is equal to that awarded to the families of the martyrs of the revolution.

Pensions will be awarded to those injured in the events of the 18 days of protests that led to Mubarak regime’s ouster or subsequent clashes.

Mubarak was ousted after 18 days of demonstrations during the revolution and on February 11, last year, then Vice President Omar Suleiman, announced that Mubarak had resigned as president and transferred authority to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

In a swift reaction to the declaration, dozens of activists attempted to storm the headquarters of the Freedom and Justice Party in the cities of Port Said and Port Fouad, but were stopped by security forces.

In response to the announcement, Mahmoud Ghozlan, official spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood, stated that it was a “revolutionary decision”, Ahram online reported.

He defended the declaration’s article protecting the Constituent Assembly, even though thousands of protesters repeatedly took to streets over the past month to call for the dissolution of the constitution-writing body.

Ghozlan stated that while this is a public expression of opinion that should be respected, it is nevertheless unlawful and goes against the legislative principles of the constitution.

Reiterating this, chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party’s legislative committee Mokhtar El—Ashry claimed that “it is clear from the current decree that the People's Assembly will be reinstated.”

He further asserted that the decision was “constitutional” since it was announced in the form of a constitutional decree.

At the inauguration of the Conference Party, which former presidential candidate Amr Moussa founded, he slammed the decisions of Mursi.

“I fear more clashes will take place after the decision of Mursi to dismiss the public prosecutor,” Moussa said, adding that Egypt needed more stability.

“There will be no return to dictatorship, as Egyptians will not accept a dictatorship again,” said the ex-secretary-general of the Arab League.

(This article was published on November 23, 2012)
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