The sharp divisions in Egyptian society became starkly evident Friday, when clashes broke out in Cairo and several cities across the country after President Mohamed Morsi took on sweeping new powers that essentially put him above the law. Opponents reportedly set fire to several Muslim Brotherhood offices and opponents and supporters attacked each other with stones, injuring at least 15 people, according to the Associated Press. Meanwhile, police fired tear gas at protesters who had gathered in Tahrir Square, the symbol of the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.
The protesters depicted Morsi as the new Mubarak, saying he had launched a “constitutional coup” and given himself dictatorial powers. Morsi defended his new powers, saying that they were necessary to protect the transition to democracy and overcome a stalemate. “But the unexpected breadth of the powers he seized raised immediate fears that he might become a new strongman,” details the New York Times. Morsi’s power-grab comes as the Egyptian president is receiving praise from different corners of the world for playing a key role in mediating the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. But this new development is bound to worry key allies, including the United States and the European Union, notes Reuters.
Among other thngs, Morsi’s decree ordes a retrial of Mubarak and security officials accused of killing demonstrators during the 2011 revolution, reports the Guardian. It also declares that all of Morsi’s decisions are immune from legal challenges until a new parliament is elected. The AP takes a detailed look at the decree here.
Thousands of Morsi supporters gathered outside the presidential palace in Cairo Friday to express support for the president and to hear him defend the decree, reports Al Jazeera. “I will never be against any Egyptians because we are all together and we need to give momentum to freedom and democracy and the transfer,” Morsi said. "I don't want to have all the powers...but if I see my nation in danger, I will do and I will act. I must."