News / Africa

Egypt's Morsi Pledges to Restrict New Powers to 'Sovereign' Matters

Elizabeth ArrottMichael Lipin
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has promised the country’s top judges that he will restrict his newly self-granted powers to sovereign matters.
 
Morsi spokesman Yasser Ali said the Islamist president made the pledge Monday during talks with the Supreme Judicial Council. There was no definition of the sovereign matters over which President Morsi will have absolute power. He granted himself that power in a November 22 decree that bars the judiciary from challenging his decisions. 

Mohamed Morsi

  • Removed from power on July 3, 2013 after massive protests
  • Elected president in June, 2012-Led the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party
  • Elected to parliament in 2005
  • Received a PhD from University of Southern California in 1982
  • Born in Sharqiya in the Nile Delta in 1951
The spokesman said Morsi’s clarification on the issue of "sovereign matters" does not constitute a change to the decree. 
 
Opposition groups were preparing to hold a mass protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday to demand the cancellation of Morsi's decree. They accuse him of trying to assume dictatorial powers like those of his longtime predecessor Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a 2011 popular uprising. 
 
Morsi has defended his move as a temporary measure to speed up democratic reforms delayed by legal challenges under a judicial system with many Mubarak-era appointees. He has said his decree will last until new parliamentary elections are held under a revised constitution that must be approved in a national referendum. 
 
Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement had planned to rally in Cairo on Tuesday in support of the president, but it called off the event, saying it wants to avoid confrontation. 
 
A protester throws stones at riot police during clashes at Tahrir square in Cairo November 26, 2012.A protester throws stones at riot police during clashes at Tahrir square in Cairo November 26, 2012.
x
A protester throws stones at riot police during clashes at Tahrir square in Cairo November 26, 2012.
A protester throws stones at riot police during clashes at Tahrir square in Cairo November 26, 2012.
Opposition activists also launched a legal challenge to Morsi’s decree on Monday, filing lawsuits in an administrative court that said it will begin hearing the cases on December 4. 
 
The presidential decree triggered several days of street battles between Morsi opponents, supporters and police in major Egyptian cities.

Authorities said the clashes killed an Islamist activist and wounded at least 370 other people. Thousands of people gathered in the northern Nile Delta town of Damanhour on Monday for the funeral of the teenage Islamist, who was killed the previous day when anti-Morsi rioters stormed a Muslim Brotherhood office. 

Morsi's rationale

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Oct. 7, 2012.Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Oct. 7, 2012.
x
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Oct. 7, 2012.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Oct. 7, 2012.
Morsi argues he needs to sweep the judiciary of the old guard to ensure a new constitution and parliament.

But the desire for checks and balances against absolute power, a driving force in last year's revolution, remains.

Morsi's opponents hope the power of the street will act as a check on what some are calling his attempt to become “a new pharaoh.”

“I think it is a bit of an exaggeration, not because I know his intentions  -  I really don't care about his intentions  - but I think he cannot really become a new pharaoh and what we've witnessed over the past few days really testifies to that,” said activist Khalil.

The rallies have reinvigorated a fractured opposition.

Political analyst Mustafa el-Labbad said that Tuesday's protest was called by everyone from leftists to nationalists.

“All non-Islamic forces will be there and I think this result is not so bright for Mr. Morsi,” he said.

Wide impact

Ramifications are being felt economically, with Egypt's stock market plunging despite a new preliminary deal with the International Monetary Fund, and international kudos for Egypt's role in brokering a cease-fire in Gaza last week.

“They are misinterpreting that as a green light for them as Western recognition so they can do what they want internally in Egypt," el-Labbad said. "I think it is a fatal mistake.”

Failing to stop the nation's economic decline is worrying.  

“I think that contributed to the anger against him - that he didn't attempt to do that," political activist Khalil said. "Had he, for instance, tried to do something for the people, to introduce improvement in livelihoods and the judges stopped it, then he would have had a case."

U.S. reaction

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States has concerns about the Morsi decree but considers that to be a separate issue from the Egyptian president’s mediation of a November 21 cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas. 
 
Carney reiterated U.S. praise for what he called Mr. Morsi’s “constructive” role in achieving the truce. He also said Washington will keep working toward an Egyptian transition to a democratic government that reflects the will of the people.

In Washington, U.S. Senator John McCain criticized Morsi's decree as "unacceptable," in an interview with the television network Fox News.

The Obama administration has proposed a $1 billion debt relief package for Egypt to help revive its struggling economy. Egypt also has received billions of dollars in U.S. military aid over three decades of close relations.

The U.S. State Department said the Morsi declarations "raise concerns for many Egyptians and for the international community." It said one of the aspirations of the 2011 revolution was "to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution."

VOA's Mark Snowiss contributed to this report from Washington

  • Protesters chant anti-government slogans in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, November 30, 2012.
  • Protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, November 30, 2012.
  • Merchants sell bread to protesters, some of whom have camped out in tents since last week, as opposition groups plan to gather for a rally in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, November 30, 2012.
  • Youths climb a wall that was built by police to prevent clashes between protesters and police at Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, November 29, 2012.
  • Youths walk next to a pirate flag on display by a street vendor in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, November 29, 2012.
  • Riot police and protesters throw stones at one another during clashes near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, November 28, 2012.
  • Protesters run during clashes with police near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, November 28, 2012.
  • A protester carries stones to throw at the police during clashes near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, November 28, 2012.
  • A protester reads the Wafd, a local newspaper next to tents occupied by protesters in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, November 28, 2012.
  • A shot of Tahrir Square in Cairo as night falls, November 27, 2012. (J. Weeks/VOA)
  • Egyptian security forces arrest a protester during clashes near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, November 27, 2012.
  • An Egyptian protester blows a stadium horn as he gestures at a cordon of security forces near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, November 27, 2012.
  • A protester throws stones at riot police during clashes at Tahrir Square in Cairo November 26, 2012.
  • Egyptians attend the funeral of youth activist Gaber Salah, also known as Gika, at the Omar Makram mosque in Cairo, November 26, 2012.
  • An Egyptian protester runs during clashes with security forces near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, November 25, 2012.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

Al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: ali baba from: new york
November 26, 2012 3:44 PM
during mubark,egyption people enjoy freedom ,belive it or not. then the revolution erupted and they call for demcracy. and who call for democracy muslim brotherhood .many amercan belive them and see what is out come?

by: Nikos Retsos from: Chicago, USA
November 26, 2012 7:51 AM
I don't recall senator John McCain having ever said during his long career in the senate that anything the Democracts do was acceptable, or anything that Hosni Mubarak did in Egypt for 32 years was unacceptable! He is pre-programmed on any political issue! Nikos Retsos, retired professor

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs