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

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline 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.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid