The streets of Cairo have remained flooded with protestors ever since Mohamed Morsi issued decrees that “temporarily” maki him a dictator — or as some say, a pharaoh. Morsi pledged to end his decrees as soon as Egypt votes on the constitution drafted by his Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist allies, but that has not slowed down opposition. CNN reports this morning that women flooded into Tahrir Square to protest both Morsi and his Islamist allies, and pledge to remain until Morsi cancels the plebiscite on his draft constitution and his decrees:
Morsi opponents are no longer alone in Tahrir Square, however. Counterprotests have begun on behalf of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood:
Egyptian Islamists are holding rallies in support of President Mohammed Morsi ahead of his expected ratification of a new post-revolutionary constitution that opponents fear is too based in sharia law and does not adequately protect human rights.
The demonstrations in Cairo and across the country come after days of rival protests by supporters and opponents of Morsi, who is expected to call a quickfire referendum on Saturday on the new draft constitution in order to hurry it through before Egypt’s supreme constitutional court can dissolve the assembly that drafted it.
The draft has been criticised for its ambiguous language on civil liberties, women’s and minority rights and freedom of expression, as well as its concentration on enshrining sharia law as the basis for legislation. It also protects army privileges that Morsi’s opponents want revoked, including the ability to try civilians in military courts.
Expect Morsi to approve the plebiscite today, though, because by tomorrow it will be too late:
“All indications point to the president calling for a referendum on Saturday after he officially receives and ratifies the draft constitution,” said Sameh El-Essawia, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party. “There is a rush because you can’t leave the country like this and wait for a politicised verdict from the supreme constitutional court.”
The Muslim Brotherhood fears the court will dissolve the Islamist-dominated assembly that created the constitution when it meets on Sunday. By law, once Morsi calls for the referendum, the assembly’s dissolution becomes a moot point.
If that happens, Egyptians warn the US that we won’t like the outcome, reports Richard Engel:
This is also a warning, they claim, of what may happen across the Middle East. The era of the Muslim Brotherhood appears to have arrived. President Obama has hailed the Brotherhood’s President Mohammed Morsi as a pragmatist who helped end the Gaza crisis. Egyptians here think the Brotherhood has conned Washington, just like it conned them.
“President Obama is supporting a terrorist,” a man told me amid chants of “Leave! Leave!” in Tahrir Square and “Down, down with the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader.” Before, it was “Down, down with Mubarak.”
Engel appears to agree with them that Morsi conned Obama and the State Department. His report is deeply pessimistic about the future with the Muslim Brotherhood in charge, and quite clearly thinks that the Obama administration doesn’t have a clue about it:
Morsi last night apologized for the power grab and said he didn’t want the extra authorities, but that they were necessary for the good of the people and to safeguard the revolution. Dictators always say stuff like that. Burn down the village to save it.
At first Egyptians were shocked that Morsi would make such an obvious and, according to Egyptian judges, blatantly illegal move. It’s clear now, as some analysts have long feared, that the brotherhood is making sure it doesn’t lose power again by taking control of Egypt’s constitution. The Brotherhood wants to write the rules of the game. Now they’ve done that too. …
Yet the United States has remained mostly silent on all this, urging both sides to stay calm and work it out. Washington’s policy seems to be that what’s going on is simply democracy in progress as Egyptians learn to use their new rights.
But in Tahrir Square people seem convinced the Brotherhood isn’t testing its fledgling wings. They say Morsi knows exactly what he’s doing, Washington be warned.
Too late, I’m afraid.