The Thanksgiving Day decrees by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi sent Egypt back into street protests and turmoil, prompting dissident Mohamed ElBaradei to charge Morsi had become a “new pharaoh.” But is Egypt's elected president seizing dictatorial powers, or is he instead protecting elected government from the onslaught of a runaway judiciary appointed by the former dictator Hosni Mubarak?
The establishment media in the United States and the West has decided the former, portraying the power struggle as one with Islamic extremists on one side, and everyone else on the other side. In that media campaign, the Western media has an ally among the secular parties. “Morsi usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt's new pharaoh. A major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences,” dissident and former Nobel Prize-winning former United Nations bureaucrat Mohamed ElBaradei told the press.
At issue is Morsi's six-part decree.
First, Morsi nullified Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council (the nation's Supreme Court) rulings invalidating the parliamentary election results of January 2012, where Egyptians chose an Assembly (lower house of parliament) dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and its Salafist allies. Both the Muslim Brotherhood's and the al Noura Party Salafists identify with Islam and Sharia law.
Second, Morsi reopened criminal prosecutions of Mubarak-era murders of protesters and dissidents by government officials (closed by the Mubarak-dominated courts and prosecutor-general).
Third, Morsi appointed his own prosecutor-general (roughly equivalent to the U.S. Attorney General).
Fourth, Morsi invalidated any court rulings that would abolish elected bodies or the provisional constitution proclaimed by Mubarak before his ouster.
Fifth, Morsi ordered drawing up a new constitution by a select committee of the elected Assembly within six months.
The five decrees summarized above are understandable, considering the judicial overreach by Supreme Judicial Council members — all of them Mubarak holdovers. (The remaining decree will be discussed below.) The Egyptian Supreme Judicial Council dissolved the legitimately elected legislative Assembly (the lower house of Egypt's parliament) in its own decree of November 7. “All the rulings and decisions of the Supreme Constitutional Court are final and not subject to appeal ... and are binding for all state institutions,” the unelected court ruled November 7, reaffirming two earlier decisions abolishing the Assembly.
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Photo of Mohammed Morsi: AP Images