Morsi to meet judges over standoff on seizure of powers
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is to meet senior judges tomorrow to try to ease a crisis over his seizure of new powers which has set off violent protests reminiscent of last year's revolution which brought him to power.
Egypt's stock market plunged today in its first day open since Mr Morsi issued a decree late on Thursday temporarily widening his powers and shielding his decisions from judicial review, drawing accusations he was behaving like a new dictator.
More than 500 people have been injured in clashes between police and protesters worried Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood aims to dominate the post-Hosni Mubarak era after winning Egypt's first democratic parliamentary and presidential elections this year.
The country's highest judicial authority hinted at compromise to avert a further escalation, though Mr Morsi's opponents want nothing less than the complete cancellation of a decree they see as a danger to democracy.
The Supreme Judicial Council said Mr Morsi's decree should apply only to "sovereign matters", suggesting it did not reject the declaration outright, and called on judges and prosecutors, some of whom began a strike today, to return to work.
Mr Morsi will meet the council tomorrow, state media said.
The president's office repeated assurances that the measures would be temporary, and said he wanted dialogue with political groups to find "common ground" over what should go in Egypt's constitution, one of the issues at the heart of the crisis.
Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University, saw an effort by the presidency and judiciary to resolve the crisis, but added their statements were "vague". "The situation is heading towards more trouble," he said.
Today's stock market fall of nearly 10 percent - halted only by automatic curbs - was the worst since the uprising that toppled Mubarak in February, 2011.
Images of protesters clashing with riot police and tear gas wafting through Cairo's Tahrir Square were an unsettling reminder of that uprising. Activists were camped in the square for a third day, blocking traffic with makeshift barricades. Nearby, riot police and protesters clashed intermittently.
Mr Morsi's supporters and opponents plan big demonstrations on Tuesday that could be a trigger for more street violence. "We are back to square one, politically, socially," said Mohamed Radwan of Pharos Securities, an Egyptian brokerage firm.
Mr Morsi's decree marks an effort to consolidate his influence after he successfully sidelined Mubarak-era generals in August. It reflects his suspicions of a judiciary little reformed since the Mubarak era.
Issued just a day after the president received glowing tributes from Washington for his work brokering a deal to end eight days of violence between Israel and Hamas, the decree drew warnings from the west to uphold democracy. Washington has leverage because of billions of dollars it sends in annual military aid.