With a constitutional assembly on the brink of collapse and protesters battling the police in the streets here over the slow pace of change, President Mohamed Morsi issued a sweeping decree on Thursday night, granting himself broad new powers above any court and ordering the retrial of his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.
Mr. Morsi, an Islamist who won Egypt’s first free presidential vote, portrayed himself as acting to satisfy popular demands. But the unexpected breadth of his new powers immediately raised fears that he might become a new strongman.
“An absolute presidential tyranny,” Amr Hamzawy, a liberal member of the dissolved Parliament who had been a well-known political scientist at Western institutions, wrote in an online commentary. “Egypt is facing a horrifying coup against legitimacy and the rule of law and a complete assassination of the democratic transition.”
Nathan Brown, a scholar of the Egyptian legal system at the Carnegie Institute in Beirut, said Mr. Morsi might relinquish his autocratic new powers in just a few months with the ratification of a new constitution. But if he does, he will have defied historical precedent.
Mr. Brown summarized Mr. Morsi’s overall message: “I, Morsi, am all powerful. And in my first act as being all powerful, I declare myself more powerful still. But don’t worry — it’s just for a little while.
UPDATE: Morsi spoke today:
“We are, God willing, moving forward, and no one stands in our way,” Reuters quoted Mr. Morsi as saying on Friday said in a suburban mosque here after Friday Prayer.
“I fulfill my duties to please God and the nation and I take decisions after consulting with everyone,” he said. “Victory does not come without a clear plan, and this is what I have.”
Next will be the rounding up of the
Girondins liberals, and the consolidation of the revolution by the Jacobins Islamists, whose hearts are pure and answerable only to God.