Morsi’s ‘dictatorial’ new powers spark unrest

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Opponents and supporters of Mohammed Morsi clashed across Egypt yesterday, the day after the president granted himself sweeping new powers that critics fear can allow him to be a virtual dictator.

At least 15 were reported injured.

Protesters burned offices of the political arm of Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group on several cities on the Suez Canal east of Cairo and in the port city of Alexandria.

Islamists were involved in fistfights with opponents of Mr Morsi in southern Egypt.

Tens of thousands of pro-democracy activists meanwhile converged on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, angered at the decisions by the president.

The decrees include exempting himself from judicial review, as well as a panel writing the new constitution and the upper house of parliament, and the power to enact any other measure he deems necessary to deal with a “threat” to Egypt’s “revolution”.

The powers are supposed to be temporary – until a new constitution and new parliamentary elections take place – and feed on the belief among the public that judicial officials appointed under ousted President Hosni Mubarak are blocking the reform of state institutions.

The president’s supporters cast the decrees as the next logical step to consolidate the gains of the 2011 uprising that overthrew Mubarak. Courts dissolved both parliament and an earlier constitutional assembly earlier this year, and were weighing up whether to dissolve it again.

“We are going ahead and no one can stop our march. We are not a fragile nation and I am carrying my duty for the sake of God and my country,” the president said, according to the state-owned Akhbar al-Youm newspaper.

But Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the UN’s nuclear agency, called Mr Morsi a “new pharaoh” and the president’s one-time ally, the April 6 movement, warned the polarisation could bring a “civil war”.