President Mohamed Morsy has often celebrated the fact that he has seldom used his legislative powers, using that fact as an index of his care not to abuse his expansive authorities.Sounds pretty absolute, doesn't it? And it cannot be a coincidence that Morsi decided to announce this right after being praised by the US for his role in brokering a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
But a new constitutional declaration issued on Thursday night actually harnesses more power for Morsy, which he says he is trying to avoid.
The seven-article declaration renders the president's decrees and laws immune from appeal or cancellation. It also protects both the Shura Council and the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly from dissolution by any judicial authority, and further protects the assembly by extending its mandate to draft the constitution to eight months instead of six, as stipulated in an earlier constitutional declaration. Two cases against the Shura Council and the Constituent Assembly are currently awaiting a court ruling, but those cases will now be voided by the declaration.
The new constitutional declaration also gives immunity to all decisions and decrees issued by Morsy since he took office on 30 June and until the ratification of a new constitution, thus protecting those decisions from judicial or any other type of revision.
Further, Morsy granted himself the exclusive right to take any measures he sees fit to protect the country's national unity, national security and the revolution.
Secular Egyptians aren't being fooled so easily.
Quarrels between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsy escalated into violent clashes in Alexandria on Friday afternoon.
Eyewitnesses told Al-Masry Al-Youm that 15 were injured in the clashes as both sides hurled stones at each other, and at least five cars were smashed in the course of the violence. The confrontations led to a brief halt in traffic on the Alexandria Corniche.
Anti-Morsy protesters are gained control of the area in front of the Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque, while Morsy’s supporters have pulled back, the witnesses added.
Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr reported that anti-Morsy supporters had stormed the office of Freedom and Justice Party at the area and set it ablaze.
And in Cairo:
The problem is that the pro-Islamist groups can easily summon far more people at any protest any time they want. The parliamentary elections made that clear - the masses in Egypt are not pro-secular, and an Islamist government that veers towards totalitarianism is not considered a problem as long as Islamic law is the driving force behind it.
A march of dozens coming came from Estiqama Mosque in Giza Square after Friday prayers. The march included April 6 Youth Movement, Popular Current and Constitution Party members. Each movement raised its flag while others raised the Egyptian flag. The protesters also held banners denouncing the Muslim Brotherhood and its intervention in the state policy, as well as banners rejecting yesterday’s constitutional declaration.
Another march from Nour Mosque in Abbasseya that includes dozens of opponents to Morsy's decisions, including April 6 activists, is also headed to Tahrir.
The protesters held symbolic coffins wrapped in Egyptian flags and white flags that read "martyr."
They chanted "The people want to bring the president down" and "A second revolution anew."
The protesters arrival in Tahrir comes about an hour after Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Morsy came out in the tens to demonstrate against the Constitution Party’s anti-Morsy protest march from the Fatah Mosque in Ramses Square.
The two groups engaged in verbal sparring matches, shouting slogans at each other after the Friday prayers ended. Constitution Party protesters immediately left.
Will the US respond to this naked anti-democratic power play by Morsi, or will the billions continue to flow to Egypt?
There is nothing to be optimistic about here.
See also Barry Rubin for his usual spot-on analysis that does not conform to the sunny thinking of the conventional wisdom.