Egypt’s Morsi Pulls Back Power Grab, Makes Deal

November 27, 2012  

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has agreed to pull back decrees announced last Thursday granting himself sweeping new powers.

The Islamist leader originally told a panel of Egypt’s top judges that he would not change his stance on the edicts, insisting that he was acting within his rights. But according to a report by a television network allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, an agreement worked out with top judicial authorities was reached late Monday.

The decrees had barred the judiciary from disbanding the Constitutional Assembly or the Upper House of the Parliament, placing the presidency and the committee writing the new Constitution above the authority of the judiciary.

Under the deal reached late Monday night, most of the president’s actions would be subject to review by the courts. But the Constitutional Assembly involved in writing the nation’s new Constitution would also be protected from being dissolved by the courts before its work is completed.

Egypt’s Supreme Court had dissolved the previous parliament after an election filled with irregularities resulted in its being comprised of an Islamist majority in both houses.

Judges and prosecutors went on strike in Cairo and numerous other cities throughout Egypt on Sunday and Monday to protest what they saw as an “assault” on the independence of the courts. Activists denounced the edicts as a brazen power grab. Morsi defended the decrees, saying they were necessary in order to protect the country’s transition to democracy, and implement reforms.

Spokesman Yasser Ali told journalists at a news conference the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president assured the judges the decrees did not “infringe” on their own authority in any way. Morsi’s stance reinforced plans by the opposition to carry out massive rallies and protests in Cairo on Tuesday. Supporters of the president planned counter rallies in response, local media reported.

Since Thursday, protesters had massed in the streets of Cairo against the new decrees, accusing Morsi of becoming a “new Mubarak.”  The decades-old regime of former President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown by the January 25 Revolution that began in the iconic Tahrir Square nearly two years ago.

Violent clashes erupted on Friday, with a total of 444 people wounded nationwide as a result, according to Egypt’s Health Ministry. Of those, 49 remain in hospital, the official MENA news agency reported.

Two young Egyptians were killed over the weekend – including one in Cairo – and at least 40 other people were wounded in the Nile Delta region when an anti-Morsi mob tried to storm the local offices of the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.

On Monday, thousands marched in Cairo’s Tahrir Square at the funeral of the young protester killed by police. Thousands more were in Damanhoor to mourn the teen who died in the Nile Delta.

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