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Demonstrators pledge to fight Morsi power grab

ABC News: Opponents of the Egyptian president have begun a sit-in protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand he retract a declaration that grants him broad powers.

Mohamed Morsi outraged many Egyptians this week with a decree that all his decisions would be immune from judicial review.

After a day of protests both for and against the Islamic leader, demonstrators in Tahrir Square – the symbolic heart of protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak last year – have begun what they say will be a week-long sit-in.

“We are heading towards a totalitarian regime again for the second time. This is not what we revolted for. I elected Morsi myself the last time and now Morsi is repeating Mubarak’s mistakes,” one protester told the BBC.

“We are protesting against this new declaration which give him more and more power, unprecedented power. We can’t accept that,” another said.

Under a declaration read out on television on Thursday, the president “can issue any decision or measure to protect the revolution… The constitutional declarations, decisions and laws issued by the president are final and not subject to appeal.”

The move is a blow to the pro-democracy movement that ousted Mubarak, and has sparked fears that Islamists will be further ensconced in power.

Mr Morsi’s opponents poured into Tahrir Square after the main weekly Muslim prayers, joined by leading secular politicians Mohamed El Baradei, a former UN nuclear watchdog chief, and Amr Mussa, a ex-foreign minister and Arab League chief.

The president himself came out to speak outside his palace offering this reassurance.

“I’d like to see a genuine opposition, a strong opposition. I guarantee that,” he said.

“Political stability, social stability and economic stability are what I want and that is what I am working for.”

International concern
Mr Morsi’s move also raised international concerns, with the United States calling for calm and urging all parties to work together.

“The decisions and declarations announced on November 22 raise concerns for many Egyptians and for the international community,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

“One of the aspirations of the revolution was to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution.”

In Brussels, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said “it is of utmost importance that the democratic process be completed in accordance with the commitments undertaken by the Egyptian leadership.”

Rights watchdog Amnesty International slammed Mr Morsi’s new powers, which “trample the rule of law and herald a new era of repression”.

A spokesman for the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), headed by Mr Morsi before his election, said the president’s decree was necessary to cut short the turbulent transitional period.

“We need to move things in the right direction,” said Murad Ali.

“We need stability. That’s not going to happen if we go back again to allowing the judges, who have personal reasons, to dissolve the constituent assembly in order to prolong the transitional phase.”

‘Peak of his powers’
Mr Morsi is the same man who just a few days ago was praised on the world stage for brokering a peace deal between Israel and Hamas.

Many people are saying the timing of his decree may be no coincidence, and Mr Morsi is taking advantage of his new-found stature to make this move.

Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute says this may have been a well-timed power grab.

“I think Morsi is at the very peak of his post-revolutionary powers,” he said.

“His reputation is soaring in Washington, Gaza, even Israel.

“So I think he’s certainly exploited his new standing, his sense of immunity, perhaps on the calculation that the United States, wishing to keep the peace in Gaza, does not want to rock the boat and gathers that Morsi’s enforcement of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is worth far more than pressing him on overturning these autocratic reforms.”

Published Date: Friday, November 23rd, 2012 | 05:52 PM

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