CAIRO —Prominent Egyptian democracy advocate Mohammed ElBaradei warned Saturday of increasing turmoil that could potentially lead to the military stepping in unless the Islamist president rescinds his new, near absolute powers, as the country’s long-fragmented opposition sought to unite and rally new protests.
Egypt’s liberal and secular forces — long divided, weakened and uncertain amid the rise of Islamist parties to power — are seeking to rally themselves in response to the decrees issued this week by President Mohammed Morsi. The president granted himself sweeping powers to “protect the revolution” and made himself immune to judicial oversight.
The judiciary, which was the main target of Morsi’s edicts, pushed back Saturday. The country’s highest body of judges, the Supreme Judicial Council, called his decrees an “unprecedented assault.” Courts in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria announced a work suspension until the decrees are lifted.
Outside the high court building in Cairo, several hundred demonstrators rallied against Morsi, chanting, “Leave! Leave!” echoing the slogan used against former leader Hosni Mubarak in last year’s uprising that ousted him. Police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of young men who were shooting flares outside the court.
The edicts issued Wednesday have galvanized anger brewing against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, from which he hails, ever since he took office in June as Egypt’s first freely elected president. Critics accuse the Brotherhood — which has dominated elections the past year — and other Islamists of monopolizing power and doing little to bring real reform or address Egypt’s mounting economic and security woes.
Opposition groups have called for nationwide rallies Tuesday — and the Muslim Brotherhood has called for rallies supporting Morsi the same day, setting the stage for new violence.
Morsi supporters counter that the edicts were necessary to prevent the courts, which already dissolved the elected lower house of parliament, from further holding up moves to stability by disbanding the assembly writing the new constitution, as judges were considering doing. Like parliament was, the assembly is dominated by Islamists. Morsi accuses Mubarak loyalists in the judiciary of seeking to thwart the revolution’s goals and barred the judiciary from disbanding the constitutional assembly or parliament’s upper house.