Update: Egypt Protests as President Takes New Powers

Islamist president sets date for vote on controversial new constitution. Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations follow demonstrations against Morsi’s power grab.

Updated Dec. 1:

The Washington Post reported Dec. 1:

“Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi called for a Dec. 15 referendum on a controversial new constitution Saturday, a day after an Islamist-dominated assembly rushed its passage and as his supporters jammed the streets in a massive demonstration organized by the Muslim Brotherhood.

“In a speech Saturday to the constitution-writing assembly that liberal and other non-Islamist members had abandoned in protest, Morsi called for a ‘serious national dialogue’ to resolve the political crisis sparked late last month when he decreed that he had near-absolute power in the name of speeding up Egypt’s democratic transition. Morsi has said his decree would be nullified once the constitution is adopted.”

However, many Egyptians who have been demonstrating against Morsi’s power grab disagree.

“‘Morsi put to referendum a draft constitution that undermines basic freedoms and violates universal values,’ tweeted the leading liberal opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei moments after the president’s speech. ‘The struggle will continue.’”

Power grab sparked protests

In the wake of his success negotiating a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians of Gaza, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi took new powers to himself that sparked protests Friday, Nov. 23.

Fox News reported:

“Thousands of opponents of Egypt’s Islamist president clashed with his supporters in cities across the country Friday, burning several offices of the Muslim Brotherhood, in the most violent and widespread protests since Mohammed Morsi came to power, sparked by his move to grant himself sweeping powers.

“The violence, which left 100 people injured, reflected the increasingly dangerous polarization in Egypt over what course it will take nearly two years after the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

“Critics of Morsi accused him of seizing dictatorial powers with his decrees a day earlier that make him immune to judicial oversight and give him authority to take any steps against ‘threats to the revolution.’ On Friday, the president spoke before a crowd of his supporters massed in front of his palace and said his edits were necessary to stop a ‘minority’ that was trying to block the goals of the revolution.”

Comparisons to Mubarak and Pharaoh

Reuters reported:

“Opponents accused Mursi, who has issued a decree that puts his decisions above legal challenge until a new parliament is elected, of being the new Mubarak and hijacking the revolution.

“‘The people want to bring down the regime,’ shouted protesters in Tahrir, echoing a chant used in the uprising that forced Mubarak to step down. ‘Get out, Mursi,’ they chanted, along with ‘Mubarak tell Mursi, jail comes after the throne.’

“Mursi’s aides said the presidential decree was intended to speed up a protracted transition that has been hindered by legal obstacles but Mursi’s rivals condemned him as an autocratic pharaoh who wanted to impose his Islamist vision on Egypt.”

International concerns

The Guardian reported:

“It has not only been in Egypt that Morsi’s move has been causing concern. On Friday a spokesman for the UN human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, added to the mounting sense of crisis.

“‘We are very concerned about the possible huge ramifications of this declaration on human rights and the rule of law in Egypt,’ said Rupert Colville at the United Nations in Geneva.

“The EU also expressed its concern. ‘It is of utmost importance that the democratic process be completed in accordance with the commitments undertaken by the Egyptian leadership,’ a spokesman for Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, said in a statement.”

Keep watching Egypt and the Middle East

Will President Morsi respond by increasing his powers further? Will unrest increase or be put down? It’s important to continue watching this unstable and prophetically important part of the world. To understand the future of the region, read more in our section on the “Middle East in Bible Prophecy.” For more background, see also our previous blog posts:

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett is editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the Dallas, Texas, area. He coordinates the Life, Hope & Truth website, Discern magazine, the Daily Bible Verse Blog and the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter (including World Watch Weekly). He is also part of the Personal Correspondence team of ministers who have the privilege of answering questions sent to Life, Hope & Truth.

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