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Egypt’s President Morsi, flushed from international praise after brokering a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, granted himself and bodies dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood sweeping powers this week, excluding himself from any form of judicial review:

Morsi decreed immunity for the panel drafting a new constitution from any possible court decisions to dissolve it. He has also granted the same protection to the upper chamber of parliament. Both bodies are dominated by Morsi's Islamist allies.

Several courts are looking into cases demanding the dissolution of both bodies. Parliament's lower chamber, also dominated by Islamists, was dissolved in June by a court decision on the grounds that the rules governing its election were illegal.

Morsi also decreed that all the decisions he has made since taking office in June and until a new constitution is adopted are not subject to appeal in court or by any other authority, a move that places Morsi above oversight of any kind. He already has legislative powers after the lower chamber was dissolved days before he took office on
30 June.

Morsi also sacked the Chief Prosecutor Abdel Maguid Mahmood, a Mubarak-era holdover who had been accused of incompetence in the trials of Mubarak-era police officers who were acquitted of assault and murder charges during the Egyptian protest that brought down former President Mubarak.

Supporters of the President gathered outside the Presidential Palace where Morsi addressed them, stating:
 

"I won't oppress anyone, and I won't leave an opportunity for anyone to contradict the revolution,"

...

"We want to achieve independence between the executive, judiciary, and legislative bodies," he said, claiming the decree would be temporary, and that it is needed to address the special circumstances surrounding a nascent era of post-revolutionary Egypt.

Morsi is trying to justify the power grab as temporary and necessary to maintain the revolution, specifically to combat the Mubarak-era judiciary from tainting the revolution while the new constitution is being drafted. However, the power grab has united some of the Mubarak-era judiciary with those who were protesting the Muslim Brotherhood’s policies prior to Morsi’s declaration and the moves by Salafist elements seeking greater role for Islam in government. 26 opposition parties have agreed to a one-week sit-in in Tahrir Square starting Friday, reminiscent of the protests that helped to bring down the Mubarak regime. Clashes between police and anti-government protesters are occurring all over Egypt, with reports of Muslim Brotherhood offices being set on fire and clashes between government supporters and opponents.

There has been a call for a judicial strike by the influential Judges Club:

Hundreds of judges held an extraordinary general assembly for the Judges' Club at the High Court headquarters in downtown Cairo to discuss measures against President Morsi's constitutional decree issued Thursday, which they argue oversteps their judicial jurisdiction and independence.

Meanwhile, during an emergency meeting on Saturday afternoon, Egypt's Supreme Judiciary Council (SJC) issued a statement expressing their disappointment over the decrees and described Morsi's move as "unprecedented attack on judiciary independence."

However, another grouping of lawyers has supported Morsi’s declaration:
The reform judges caucus"Judges for Egypt" declared on Saturday their support for President Mohamed Morsi's newly issued constitutional declaration.
The group's official spokesperson Walid Sharaby stated to Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr news channel that the Judges for Egypt meeting was attended by hundreds of their members.

"We are honoured that our meeting [to support the constitutional declaration] was not attended by members of the High Constitutional Court (HCC). We know of their orientation; they only seek to restore the old Mubarak regime," the spokesperson stated to Al-Jazeera.

The tensions between seen between those who are outraged at Morsi’s abandonment of judicial oversight versus those who accuse many members of the Mubarak-era judiciary of threatening the revolution is apparent in the responses within judicial circles. But there is a matrix of issues at play which is creating thorny questions without easy answers. Is the judiciary indeed tainting the revolution and using democratic freedoms to do so? Does by-passing the judiciary in an authoritarian way really protect the revolution? And then there are also the practical questions about the revolution itself: Egyptian society is divided. Morsi is not trusted by large elements of the population. Can the disparate opposition elements unite to fight off Morsi's power grab. And if they can't, will Morsi indeed restore judicial oversight once the constitution is drafted?
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Comment Preferences

  •  Women seem to have disappeared (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    debedb, Greek Tragedy

    Women seem to have disappeared from the streets and cameras unless they wrap themselves in burkahs under Morsi.  

  •  If he is using the arrogated powers (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, wu ming, poco, ramara

    as an interim measure to further drafting and enactment of a new constitution with strong judicial review and division of powers it could be a good thing, if he relinquishes those powers when they have a constitution everyone can live with.

    Firing Mahmoud and retrial of those responsible for the deaths of the revolutionaries, should please many on the left, and might alienate some elements of the Army.

    However, the track record in the region for giving up extraordinary powers voluntarily isn't that good.

  •  The underlying tension here (11+ / 0-)

    goes back to the real doubts about Morsi's and the Muslim Brotherhood's commitment to democracy.  Is this a Cincinnatus-like dictatorship, with Morsi returning to his plow once civil society gets established in an effective way, or is simply the replacement of the military's dictatorship with an Islamic one?

    The spectacular component of the Egyptian revolution was the spontaneous emergence of civil society, unexpected to those of us who don't follow the country closely.  Since Mubarak was toppled, however, it hasn't been at all clear that civil society would be able to recreate a functioning polity in its own image, and the election of the Muslim Brotherhood created serious doubts about whether that would ever happen.

    The emerging opposition to Morsi appears to be composed of both ancien regime hardliners and civil society revolutionary activists.  That's an unusual coalition, to say the least, but it demonstrates just how thoroughly the society has already undergone revolution.  Whatever the outcome of this particular crisis on the revolutionary path, there is no doubt the revolution itself will proceed.

    Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
    ¡Boycott Arizona!

    by litho on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:33:11 AM PST

  •  One worrisome thing (11+ / 0-)

    is that new disputed  language in the draft constitution triggered the resignation from the assembly of the moderates, intellectuals and the Copts.  It seemed to set up the 4 schools of Islamic Jurisprudence as another, perhaps superior, court of appeals.  

    So now Mursi has to appoint 30 new members to the assembly.

    So I'd watch three things.

    1.  Mursi stacking the assembly with Salafi leaning members, and using the new powers to resist objections
    2.  The problematic  article (article 220 of Section 2) remains unamended
    3.  Support of the Army in squashing resistance.

    If so, the Revolution has failed.

  •  this is a pretty complex set of issues (6+ / 0-)

    and some novel sets of allies both in the streets and in morsi's corner, at the moment. it is tricky to separate out the revolutionary need to purge the judiciary of the felool "remnants" of the decades of dictatorial rule and prevent them from monkeywrenching the new constitution on the one hand from the revolutionary need to prevent morsi from aggrandizing the presidency beyond the point where either mass action or the legislature can rein it in on the other. to then throw in the highly contested political question of the role of islam in the legal code and the constitution makes it that much more confusing.

    i am curious the degree to which attacks on MB offices are being carried out by ultras and secular left youth, or whether that is being done more by old guard elements trying to create unrest to undermine morsi's claim to be providing stability. i am also curious whether the muslim elements of the youth are siding more with morsi or with the protesters.

    there are likely a lot more players and agendas here than the dictator:protesters binary the news tends to portray it as. the tahrir square protests that brought down mubarak were vast and complex coalitions, i see no reason why these would not follow suit.

    it is heartening, in all of this, to see egyptians willing to go back to the streets and refuse to concede an inch. more than anything, this jeffersonian spirit is what will guarantee the survival of the revolution, over the long run. would that we americans were as diligent.

    •  to clarify, by "muslim elements of the youth" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sofia, Fire bad tree pretty, poco

      i meant those elements of the younger generation, involved in the revolution, whose politics and identity are relatively more defined by their religious beliefs, esp. younger members of the muslim brotherhood. as a country where the overwhelming majority is muslim (albeit in a variety of different ways), most youth will by definition be muslim.

    •  juan cole has a new piece up (6+ / 0-)

      here on everything going on.

      •  From the link (4+ / 0-)
        How to understand the vehement reaction against Morsi’s executive order? I think it is because, like Shafiq, many Egyptians do not trust him to give back powers once he has acquired them, and so they fear that he is refashioning himself as a dictator. When Morsi took power, he promised not to try to legislate or to impose things on the country, aware that in the absence of a legislature or a constitution, people in Egypt would be touchy about anything that looked high-handed. He has abandoned that earlier caution, most unwisely, and now does look high-handed. Some of his critics fear he plans to reinstate the parliament elected in fall, 2011, which the courts dissolved on the grounds that the Brotherhood and the Salafi Nur Party illegally ran party candidates for independent seats. A Muslim Brotherhood president with a Muslim Brotherhood parliament would place a lot of power in the hands of the fundamentalists, and they would be curbed only by the secular courts and the military, both of which Morsi is attempting to defang– raising the specter of a one-party state.
  •  This will be decided by the street (0+ / 0-)

    People will be patient or not.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:27:02 PM PST

  •  Good diary, fbtp. Thanks. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fire bad tree pretty, sofia, poco

    This ...

    But there is a matrix of issues at play which is creating thorny questions without easy answers.
    ... cannnot be over-emphasized. The tendency here (and on the op-ed page of the NYT whenever the mustachioed culture warrior pens some ode to ignorance) is to reduce those complexities to some sort of zero-sum Ikhwan versus democratic reforms kind of statement, which is wholly inadequate to describe the range of political actors and their agenda.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 05:33:07 AM PST

    •  Yes (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      angry marmot, sofia, poco

      I must admit that seeing the secular left allying with the Mubarak era bureaucrats/judges did have me pinching myself to check I was awake.

      The matrix includes differing and changing coalitions of authoritarian and democratic, secular and religious, intra- and inter-sectarian, ancien regime and new, in multiple possible arrangement and realignment. This is not as easy or as simple as 'The people want the downfall of the regime'.  

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