In a sudden and unforeseen move, Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has surprised the nation with a new constitutional decree. Mursi decreed and swore in a new general prosecutor, extended the controversial constitutional committee for two months, and resolved to reopen investigations into the deaths of thousands during the revolution. Some of the decisions announced may well have been among the demands of the revolution. However, the included article that makes all his decrees, resolutions, and administrative decisions immune, unquestionable or irrevocable was the most alarming.
In a brief moment of victory, Mursi had attracted international acclaim for his administrations successful mediation in the recent violence between its eastern neighbors, brokering a ceasefire to take effect Thursday between Hamas in Gaza and Israel. Throughout the few days of negotiations, Mursi and his government had been severely criticized for not paying as much attention to internal affairs in Egypt. Two main events had been monopolizing Egyptian emotions: the tragic death of 50 children in a horrific collision between a school bus and a speedy train, as well as the violent clashes in downtown Cairo in which security forces again used excessive teargas, firearms and gunshots on Monday. The heavy handed police were responding to the angry young who gathered in Mohamed Mahmoud Street to commemorate the death of the revolutionary martyrs one year ago in the same street.
Without a Parliament, and with a staggering process to produce a constitution, Mursi’s supporters claim justification for this attempted full control move. He wants to speed up the interim period and respond to revolutionary demands, frustrated by the counter revolution they argue. The pressures on Mursi and his government have been escalating in the three months he has held office. Disenchantment with the way forward and the elusive “renaissance” project has left many disappointed and frustrated. Very few outside political Islam groups would be willing to accept the declaration, or as it is now called the “dictatorship of Mursi,” even if it was just temporary or in support of the revolution.
The declaration made Thursday evening has not only taken all by surprise, but it has also unnerved and evoked furious remarks from all his political opponents, in addition to many of the revolutionary groups who had supported him and voted him to power. All such active groups were quick to denounce the decisions in one shape or form. The one thing they seem to have all agreed on is to call for the mobilization of a massive demonstration in Tahrir Square and all over the country to protest and reject the declaration. Calls to oust Mursi have begun to surface too.
Pressed between the desire to move forward and the fear of the Brotherhood and of political Islam, liberal and moderate Egyptians will be facing their biggest challenge to date. Mobilization to fill up the Tahrir Square to the brim has started, and over Thursday night the main square in downtown Cairo has been filling up. The Brotherhood are slowly trying to diffuse fears of a confrontational protest, and they have announced that they will refrain from demonstrating on Friday.
(This article was published on Hurriyet Daily News online on Nov. 24, 2012)