Egypt President Mursi stands by declaration assuming far-reaching powers

PTI Cairo | Updated on November 28, 2012

Renewed nationwide protests erupted in Egypt yesterday as the country’s President Muhammed Mursi stuck to his controversial decree granting him sweeping powers with protesters alleging that the radical leader was fast turning into a dictator.

Tens of thousands of people staged a protest in the Egyptian capital against Mursi. “The people want the regime to fall,” the crowds chanted.

Protesters and riot police clashed near Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago.

The new demonstrations came a day after Mursi held a meeting with the nation’s top judges to defuse the crisis over the controversial decree, but the meeting failed to break the impasse as thousands of people poured onto the streets in a massive show of defiance.

Protests also spread to outlying provinces including Alexandria, second-biggest city and central parts of the country.

Several other marches were preparing to set off from around the capital to join thousands of protesters already in the square to denounce Mursi’s decree.

In the city of Alexandria, several hundred gathered in Qaitbay Square, with two large marches expected to join them later.

“Down with the rule of the Supreme Guide,” protesters chanted, referring to the head of the powerful Islamist group.

After the meeting, Mursi dug in his heels making it clear to the judiciary that he did not infringe on its authority by assuming sweeping powers.

Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said that Mursi’s recent decree would not be subject to modification, noting that the decree may have been “misunderstood” by the public.

The decree, issued by the presidency on Thursday night, was met with outrage by Egypt’s Opposition, who described it as an “attack on democracy” and a “threat to judicial independence.”

The decree stated that presidential decisions will enjoy temporary immunity from legal challenge. The decree also protects Egypt’s Islamist-led Constituent Assembly, tasked with drafting a new constitution, and the Shura Council (the Upper House of Parliament) from dissolution by court order.

“The decree will only immunise the President’s sovereign decisions (from legal challenges),” asserted Ali, stressing the measure’s temporary nature.

The statement was issued following the President’s meeting with senior judicial figures.

A military officer participating in the demonstrations, Brigadier General Helmy Farag, said: “The president succeeded in one thing — he unified the divided civilian powers for the first time.”

“The people paid the price, and we are not accepting dictatorship again,” Enas Youssef, a professor at Cairo University, said.

“The Brotherhood wants the same benefits as the formerly ruling National Democratic Party.”

Several political parties also participated in the Shubra march, including the Free Egyptians party, the Social Democratic Party, the Adl Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, and the Revolutionary Socialists Movement.

Protesters stressed that their large numbers prove false the Brotherhood’s claim that they represent the majority, chanting, “They said we’re a minority, we showed them a million-man march.”

Free Egyptians Party secretary general in Ain Shams Mohamed al-Koumy said the march calls on Mursi to cancel the declaration.

“We brought Mubarak’s regime down in 18 days and we will knock Mursi and his group over in less than that.”

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Published on November 28, 2012
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