(photo credit: http://www.independentsentinel.com)
In a stunningly ironic move on Thursday, newly elected Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi issued a decree granting himself broad powers above any court as the guardian of Egypt’s revolution. Essentially, Morsi has declared that his power over the country will be unchecked. His top presidential advisers have been attempting to justify this move by assuring the Egyptian public that is was only done to hasten the development and ratification of Egypt’s new constitution, a process that has all but stalled in the 20 months since former President Mubarak’s ouster. In a television interview, Mr. Morsi’s spokesman, Yasser Ali, stressed that the expanded powers would last only until the ratification of a new constitution in a few months, calling the decree “an attempt to end the transitional period as soon as possible.”
Many of Morsi’s political opponents are skeptical, however, and are quick to point out that seldom in history has a post-revolutionary leader amassed so much personal power only to relinquish it swiftly. Nathan J. Brown, a scholar of the Egyptian legal system at George Washington University, summed up the overall message he believes the Egyptian President is sending this way: “I, Morsi, am all powerful. And in my first act as being all powerful, I declare myself more powerful still. But don’t worry — it’s just for a little while.” Mr. Morsi issued the decree at a high point in his five-month-old presidency, when he was basking in praise from the White House and around the world for his central role in negotiating a cease-fire that the previous night had stopped the fighting in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas.
Egyptian judges and prosecutors struck back on Saturday against President Morsi’s attempt to place his decrees above judicial review, vowing to challenge his edict in court and reportedly going on strike in Alexandria.
One positive out of Morsi’s decree comes from his firing of the public prosecutor, Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, a Hosni Mubarak appointee widely criticized for failing to win stronger sentences against Mubarak and his associates, and against abusive police officers (former Egyptian leader Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison for overseeing the killing of protesters, but the verdict found no direct evidence of his involvement, paving the way for an appeal).
Mahmoud’s replacement is Talaat Ibrahim Abdullah, former leader of the movement for judicial independence under Mr. Mubarak.
Morsi ordered retrials for Mubarak and others accused of responsibility for killing civilian protesters during the uprising. He stripped the accused of protections against being tried twice for the same crime and issued a law setting up a new transitional legal system to handle the retrials.
These recent events leave a number of questions to be answered. Do you believe President Morsi’s seizure of power will hasten the ratification of a constitution? Will Morsi relinquish his newly acquired power once a constitution is ratified? Do Egyptians citizens have reason to fear their new leader? What effect do you foresee Morsi’s actions having on relations between Egypt and other nations including the US?