“Egypt is in grave danger. The Muslim Brotherhood now controls all powers: legislative, executive and judiciary. No one can stop them,” said Fr Rafic Greiche. The president’s recent constitutional amendments are “a move to give the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists a stranglehold over power.” For the clergyman, the Muslim Brotherhood is following a precise plan to place Egypt under Sharia.
Egypt’s polarisation was evident toady in Cairo’s streets as demonstrations got underway. In front of the headquarters of the Justice and Freedom, thousands of Islamists celebrated Morsi’s “victory” over Sharia opponents.
Pro-democracy supporters gathered instead in Tahrir Square to commemorate the massacre of Mohamed Mahmoud Street and appeal to all Egyptians for a new revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood’s stranglehold.
With the stroke of a pen, President Morsi changed the constitution by decree, placing his office above the courts, including the constitutional court. A law in June made all declarations, laws and decrees issued by the president final and binding and beyond the challenge of any state institution.
As a pacifier, the Egyptian president has a proposed to reopen trials against police officials involved in violence against Tahrir Square protesters. He also increased subsidies to the martyrs of the revolution.
According to Fr Greiche, the Islamist leader wants to distract public opinion from his real goal. Other decrees protect the now dissolved Shura Council from challenges of unconstitutionality, and place in his hands the power to dissolve the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly.
“Morsi waited for liberals and Christians to leave their seats so that only Islamists would be able to draft the constitution and no one will stop them,” the priest said. “The only way is to vote No at the constitutional referendum. However, 40 per cent of the people are poor, living in rural areas, where Islamists are strong because they buy votes by giving in exchange bags of grain, meat and rice.”
However, “Now the party that gets the most vocal support is the liberal party. In case of elections, it would win a majority of votes. Islamists are a minority and do not want a new poll,” Fr Greiche said.
Now many are asking how the Muslim Brotherhood leader could centralised so much power in an office that in his own words was merely representative.
Claiming he was defending the ideals of the Jasmine Revolution, Morsi replaced all justices and judges appointed under Mubarak with his cronies. The last holdout was Attorney General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, a Morsi opponent, who had been trying for months to dissolve the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly. In his place, Egypt’s new strongman pickled Talaat Ibrahim Mohamed Abdullah, a former vice president of the constitutional court close to the Muslim Brotherhood.
In the Egyptian press, many liberals slammed the president for his action as did many ordinary citizens.
For Mohamed el-Baradei, former president of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a former presidential candidate, “Morsi today usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh. A major blow to the revolution that could have dire consequences.”
This afternoon, anti-Islamist demonstrators set fire to the offices of the Justice and Freedom party in Ismailiya, Suez and Port Said.
In Alexandria, violent clashes broke out between young pro-democracy party activists and the Muslim Brotherhood.