Activists march to Morsi's palace over extra powers and redrawn constitution


More than 10,000 flag-waving opposition activists yesterday marched toward Egypt’s presidential palace to protest at President Mohamed Morsi’s assumption of sweeping powers and rush to approve a controversial new constitution. They revived the chant of the 2011 uprising, “The people want the end of the regime”, and denounced the Muslim Brotherhood, which nominated Mr Morsi for the post, for “selling the revolution” that toppled president Hosni Mubarak.

The marchers urged Egyptians to rise up against Mr Morsi’s power-grab, while thousands of protesters joined those encamped in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and journalists rallied outside the Egyptian Press Syndicate in downtown Cairo. A dozen independent and party-owned newspapers and five television channels went on strike against proposed restrictions on the press. Online media expressed support for the strike.

Marchers were halted at some distance from the palace in the upmarket Heliopolis quarter by coils of razor wire and the same black-clad armed police commandos who attacked demonstrators rallying in Tahrir Square and across the country in 2011. At least a dozen demonstrators were injured in clashes with police.

Brotherhood stronghold

Mr Morsi, who had been meeting with ministers, left the palace. In Alexandria, a Brotherhood stronghold, another 10,000 demonstrated against Mr Morsi and the movement.

Last month, Mr Morsi, Egypt’s first freely-elected pre- sident, stoked the anger of the opposition and the judiciary by issuing a decree immunising his decisions from judicial review and barring the dissolution of the fundamentalist-dominated upper house of parliament and constituent assembly.

The assembly, from which liberal and Christian members had withdrawn, then quickly completed the drafting of the constitution and submitted the text to Mr Morsi, who announced it would be submitted to referendum on December 15th. He says he will cede his extraordinary powers once the constitution is ratified and a new parliament elected.

These actions have precipitated mass protests and polarised the country between secular revolutionaries critical of the president and fundamentalists who support him. His detractors argue that he could very well issue further decrees boosting his powers and put- ting himself beyond the law or constitution.

“The constitutional assembly is illegitimate, and it produced a disfigured constitution without the participation of women, Christians, workers or intellectuals,” said Hussein Abdel-Ghani, spokesman for the umbrella National Salvation Front led by presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabahi and Amr Moussa and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.

Curtailed media

Privately-owned media are particularly concerned over article 48 of the draft which renders media freedom dependent on national security demands and the mores of the society.

Gamal Fahmy, vice-chairman of the journalists’ syndicate, complained that newspapers can be closed by the authorities at any time they wish.