Egypt Constitutional Crisis: Morsi to Meet Judges as Weekend Clashes leave Two Dead, hundreds wounded

Egypt is on the knife edge between plunging into Algeria-style faction-fighting between secularists and Muslim fundamentalists, and finding a graceful way for its elected president to climb down from his more extreme assertions of power and privilege vis-a-vis the other branches of government.

The toll from fighting in Egypt between pro- and anti-Morsi activists all over Egypt was 2 dead, 451 wounded (160 or so police) and about 250 people were arrested on Sunday. (Most of the arrestees were from Muhammad Mahmoud St. off Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. A member of the New Left April 6 youth, Gabir Salah, who was shot in the head five days ago during clashes with security forced at Tahrir Square, died on Sunday; and a teenager who belonged to the youth wing of the Muslim Brotherhood was killed in clashes with protesters in the provincial city of Damanhour. Clashes and back and forth fighting continued all day Sunday in the Tahrir area, and the number of people camping out in tents increased.

Morsi’s decree, limiting the power of the courts to intervene in the Constituent Assembly that is writing the new constitution, or in the decisions of the president and the upper house of parliament, continued to be poorly received by key organizations. Six further members of the originally 100-member constitution-drafting body resigned over the weekend, citing opposition to the presidential executive order. Altogether, of an original 100 members, 22 have resigned and another 7 reserve members have stepped down. The assembly has lost the participation of the liberal Ghad (Tomorrow) Party, of the leftist April 6 movement, and of a number of other left-liberal or Christian members. Many complained of being excluded by the Muslim Brotherhood members from key subcommittees. Constituent Assembly chair Hossam al-Ghariany insists that the body will finish its work by the end of the year, predicting that this completion of their task will restore social peace (seems to me that depends on what is in the final constitution).

Even the chairman of the Egyptian senate or Shura Council, Ahmad Fahmi, has spoken out against Morsi’s decree. The protest came as a surprise, since Fahmi is a member of the Freedom and Justice Party that Morsi represents, and is a relative of the president. This development seems to me positive, since perhaps Fahmi and the Shura Council can meet with Morsi and get him to back down on some of the extravagant language in his decree.

Morsi said Sunday that he would not back down from his executive order, but that it was temporary and was meant only to move the country forward. The opposition (liberals, leftists, secularists, Christians and Muslim traditionalists) does not appear to be impressed. He is meeting on Monday with the justices of the Supreme Judicial Council along with his Justice Minister, Ahmad Makki, who also has expressed reservations about Morsi’s declaration.

The Egyptian stock market nearly fainted at the news of Morsi’s self-aggrandizing declaration of vast powers last Thursday and the street fighting and demonstrations that erupted in its aftermath. It plunged nearly ten percent on Sunday, losing about $4.5 billion. I should think the business community (including the Muslim Brotherhood big businessmen) will put pressure on Morsi to move quickly to restore confidence.

The courts closed in Alexandria and in the entire province of Qalyubiya. A slowdown was announced in Asyut in Upper Egypt, and some partial closings were staged around the country by oppositionist attorneys and judges. The Lawyers’ Syndicate condemned Morsi for his decree. Egyptian journalists threatened a general strike.

Fighting took place all day Sunday and continued on Monday morning in the western Delta city of Damanhour (pop. 250,000), a 15-year-old young man, Islam Masoud, was killed and 60 people were wounded when an angry assemblage attacked the Muslim Brotherhood HQ. There was open street fighting, with police nowhere to be seen. Anti-Morsi protesters are said to have set fire to the HQ of the railway police and to have cut rail service through the city between Alexandria and Cairo. The death of Islam Masoud further inflamed passions in the divided city. Late Sunday, it is alleged by secularists that interior ministry forces intervened, acting alongside a Muslim Brotherhood paramilitary.

In the Delta city of Tanta (pop. 500,000), famed for its Sufi shrine, dozens of people on each side were wounded in clashes between opponents of Morsi’s decrees and Muslim Brothers on Sunday. After evening prayers, 8 people were wounded when protesting, and rumors spread that the Muslim Brothers had captured some protesters and were imprisoning them in the HQ of their Freedom and Justice Party. (The Brotherhood maintains that these individuals were throwing molotov cocktails and intended to burn the building down) A big crowd of hundreds then gathered to rescue them, throwing stones at the HQ. The Brotherhood is accused of loosing teargas on them. In the ensuing clash, dozens of people were hurt badly enough to go to hospital. Some of those attacking the MB HQ were members of the secular Wafd Party, others were alleged to be former members of the dissolved National Democratic Party of deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak. I suspect that some of the Muslim protesters were traditionalists who honor the Sufi saints (Muslim fundamentalists, like Christian Protestants, often disapprove of the idea of mediation between the individual and God). The police finally came and made some arrests.

The Real News Network reports on this weekend’s developments:

11 Responses

  1. Just can’t get it. Just when it seemed that Egypt had achieved the impossible by removing Mubarak, it is soon enough faced with another problem. Could it be that the same Syrian scenario is going to be played out here now. Hopefully not for that would be the end of peace in the Middle East. For all we know this could be a well planned conspiracy judging from the recent events if we care to trace them back.

    • It’s just, on a larger scale, what happens at the doors of WalMart at 0600 on Black Friday. Everybody jostling and shoving for a piece of the dream, hoping to come out ahead of the next guy. Families setting up wedge formations, the muscleheads shoving the weaker out of the way or trampling on them, people ripping stuff out of other people’s hands, sucker punches and line-bucking, a little residue of decency in pockets among the crowd where the alltoohuman behaviors produce some sentimental reaction, and a “security” apparatus that would like to keep order but is driven at root by profit considerations and its own myths and fears.

      And all because of that disease of “MOREism,” and the inability of all those humans to accept that if no one is greedy and succumbs to or embraces an insatiable appetite and avarice and covetousness and cupidity, there’s enough of everything that matters, among the Maslow fundamentals, to go all the way around the table. Except, of course, for the few who swallow down most of what’s on the platters, and have figured out how to get the rest of us fighting each other over the scraps.

      Maybe there’s a strain of homeostatic motivation in the Egyptian culture to eventually even things out. I would hope so, so would billions of others who have looked to the Arab Spring as a metaphor for their own circumstances, where community and commonality and commensalism and symbiosis looked to be defeating the parasites and predators. Note how some who participate here want to make sure to kill that notion before it gets too well established… even if it’s just a myth, hey, the US was BUILT on myths, well-tended myths, that have so far kept us from complete dissolution. And John Carney, who lives to create and foster the instability that creates financialized profits, is among those telling us that “stability is fragility,” a more substantial and better camouflaged statement of the old “Greed is Good” thing. link to cnbc.com

      We are all in this together, except for what the complex stirrings of our limbic systems have us doing to one another… and the Big Box we have, perforce, to live in, is heating up.

    • Have you ever read about the United States in the years following our revolution?

      It took a decade to get a durable Constitution in place, the national government was a mess for years before that, there were open, armed rebellions in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania that had to be put down by force by the federal army, and the Vice President shot and killed the Secretary of the Treasury. A little over a decade after the Bill of Rights was adopted, the governing political party passed a law allowing it to arrest people for making partisan political speeches.

      We were spoiled by the relative peace with which the Eastern Bloc countries overthrew their dictatorships. New democracy usually looks a lot more like Tahrir Square or Sirte.

  2. The Who said it well – Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…what did they expect would happen, voting for something called the Muslim Brotherhood?

    On the upside at least the US didn’t prop up Mubarak to the same extent as the Shah so the new rulers may not hate us as much.

    • “at least the US didn’t prop up Mubarak to the same extent as the Shah so the new rulers may not hate us as much.”
      We propped up Mubarak for 30+ years. And we remained silent when the Egyptian protests began. It wasn’t until the current administration determined that the protesters would likely win that we finally came out in support of them. As long as we continue our unsupervised foreign aid to Egypt, we’ll have plenty of friends in their government no matter who is elected.

  3. I don’t see how he might have done things much differently – maybe some gentler finesse in how he went about it, but that’s some very limited hindsight. I do believe President Morsi’s stated reasons as to why he did the decree, and why he thought it critical, and necessary. On the other hand, I can easily understand the public reaction, as well. It seems to me that, given he seems to have no real history of disingenuous moves (from what I can tell) that it’s probably prudent to, just this one time, for just these few months, give him the benefit of the doubt. It’s also unfair to paint Morsi with the brush stained with bad actors in the Brotherhood. In American Indian Country, we have a story about the “crabs in the pot” whereas the crab trying to escape the boiling water in the pot is constantly pulled back in by the other crabs. And they all die. That much of the American Press is characterizing Morsi’s move as a “power grab” is illustrative of same.

    • Defining Egypt in its new constitution – A secular or Islamic state.

      “The main debate in Egypt still pivots around the shaky relationship between religion and politics, expressed by the insistence of Salafi parties that the basis of legislation in Egypt be the “provisions” of Shari’a law, rather than the “principles.” The debate extends to include the nature of the state and its civility. While some call for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, others want the foundation of a radical secular system.”

      Warning signs by blogger Sandmonkey and Haaretz on Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power.

  4. So why did Morsi, fresh from his negotiations with Clinton and Israel, turn around and decide he needed more power? Who would be the targte of these newewly decreed executive powers?

  5. as for Burr and Hamilton – Hamilton was looting the treasury, and trying to deflect attention by accusing Burr of ‘unnatural relations’ with his daughter. Burr accepted the duel, and won. read a little less propaganda. but the looting of the treasury – now that happens in EVERY revolution….

  6. The Muslim Brotherhood made a lot of pledges and assurances that they would not use the revolution as an opportunity for a power grab. Did they not promise, so to reassure secularist and more liberal elements, that they would not even run a candidate for president and then reneged when they felt they could. I would not trust these people as far as I could spit. Anymore then I would trust any religious party taking over here in America. At some point, they will try to enforce their religion on the whole country. It is what they are about.

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