CAIRO – Prominent Egyptian democracy advocate Mohamed 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 last 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.
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.
Oppositon groups have called for new nationwide rallies Tuesday – and the Muslim Brotherhood has called for rallies supporting Morsi the same day, setting the stage for new violence.
In an interview with a handful of journalists, Nobel Peace laureate ElBaradei raised alarm over the impact of Morsi’s rulings, saying he had become “a new pharaoh.”
“There is a good deal of anger, chaos, confusion. Violence is spreading to many places and state authority is starting to erode slowly,” he said. “We hope that we can manage to do a smooth transition without plunging the country into a cycle of violence. But I don’t see this happening without Mr. Morsi rescinding all of this.”
Speaking of Egypt’s powerful military, ElBaradei said, “I am sure they are as worried as everyone else. You cannot exclude that the army will intervene to restore law and order” if the situation gets out of hand.
ElBaradei and six other prominent liberal leaders have announced the formation of a National Salvation Front aimed at rallying all non-Islamist groups together to force Morsi to rescind his edicts.
ElBaradei said it would be a long process to persuade Morsi that he “cannot get away with murder.”
“There is no middle ground, no dialogue before he rescinds this declaration. There is no room for dialogue until then.”