Following Friday prayers, demonstrators started to find their way to Tahrir Square to demonstrate with or against a constitutional declaration that President Mohamed Morsi issued on Wednesday and announced on Thursday.
“Of course I am going to demonstrate against this constitutional declaration,” said Magdi Farouk, an engineer in his early 40s. “I cannot accept to see my country turning into the private property of Morsi. I was always against him and now I see I was right and not wrong when I decided to boycott the presidential elections.”
Speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly in front of Abou Bakr Al-Sedik Mosque at St Fatima Square in Heliopolis, Farouk said that he “would never have thought Morsi would go that far especially that he knows that he came to power with a marginal victory”.
Late afternoon yesterday, presidential spokesman Yasser Ali read out on TV Morsi’s constitutional declaration that ordered the otherwise unconstitutional removal of the controversial public prosecutor, Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, from office and the assignment of Talaat Ibrahim in his place. The constitutional declaration also forced the re-investigation of the violence committed against demonstrators during the 18 days that led to Hosni Mubarak stepping down – but not during the controversial transitional phase led by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces whose leadership came to end in August after Morsi withdrew their legislative powers. Their top officers were given honorary retirement.
Moreover, Morsi’s constitutional declaration agreed to extend the work of the constituent assembly drafting the constitution for eight extra weeks in what seemed to be a compromise between the demands of some to extend its works for three months to help the Islamist and other (civil-liberal) representatives to work out differences over some items of the constitution, and those who demand a prompt referendum on the draft to be issued in the wake of the withdrawals of the representatives of the churches and the vast majority of liberal-civil representatives.
Morsi also decided to prevent any judiciary body, including the already concerned Constitutional Court, from dissolving the assembly – thus aborting a planned session on the matter that was scheduled for 2 December – as well as the controversial Shura Council.
To judge by the demands of the many quarters of the revolutionary forces and intellectuals, much of these decisions would have gained Morsi wide-scale support had they not been coupled with an unprecedented decision by the president to make all his decisions simply irrevocable and immune against appeal before any court of law.
The criticism against Morsi’s decision was wide-ranging and inclusive of figures and quarters that would have otherwise been at odds – except almost strictly from the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, and the Salafis and other Islamists.
On his account on Twitter and in a statement issued by his party Strong Egypt, Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fottouh, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood who opted for a more participatory political avenue following the 25 January Revolution, was direct in affirming that “accommodating some key demands of the revolution should not allow for a package of dictatorial (tyrannical) decisions which is a setback to the path of the revolution”.
But Aboul-Fottouh, who ran for the presidency this year, declined to join an otherwise large-scale unity of several national forces, not excluding those who firmly stood behind Morsi’s presidential contender Ahmed Shafik – Mubarak’s last prime minister.
By Friday afternoon the followers of Aboul-Fottouh were moving to Tahrir Square, among other squares across the nation, along with the followers of a key liberal figure of the revolution, Mohamed Al-Baradei, and those of the Nasserite Hamdine Sabbahi who came third in the first round of the presidential elections in May and those of Amr Moussa, who came fifth, following Aboul-Fottouh.
Also in Tahrir Square were political figures and activists who chose to boycott the second round of presidential elections that was between Morsi and Shafik to avoid choosing between the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and the return of the Mubarak set up.
Meanwhile, Morsi’s supporters who had been massing since noon yesterday, even before the announcement of the constitutional declaration, were also in Tahrir Square shouting support for Morsi.
Confrontations had begun in Cairo and Alexandria between those who perceived Morsi’s constitutional declaration as the introduction of a new phase of dictatorship and those who saw the decision as the only way for the elected president to marginalise the Mubarak-era judge who had been defying him all the way through and who is held responsible for shocking court rules that failed to indict any of the suspects in the attacks on the demonstrators during the 18 days of the revolution.
This week’s constitutional declaration is the third swift move by Morsi who had already removed Hussein Tantawi and Sami Anan, the number one and number two of the armed forces, and had attempted a few weeks ago to remove prosecutor Mahmoud by delegating him to head the Egyptian embassy to the Vatican.
“He should have concerned himself with changing the prime minister who is failing miserably,” said Nadia Hamed, a late 50s housewife. Speaking during her weekend supermarket shopping, Hamed was complaining about the increase in prices and the decline of services.
“A few days ago there were (over) 50 children who died in a bus crash. What does this have to do with the prosecutor and the judges? This has to do with the government, and this government is not working”.
Morsi and Prime Minister Hesham Kandil came under attack last week after over 50 children died when a train hit their school bus in Assuit. Many demands were made for a government reshuffle but Morsi insisted to stick to Kandil.
“Today, he is acting like Mubarak – the people say whatever they want to say and he does whatever he wants to does,” said Hamed.
For Shahira Hussein, an activist in her late 20s, “Morsi is being another Mubarak. It’s as if there has been no revolution. The police are still attacking demonstrators and killing them”.
On Monday, clashes reoccurred and some were wounded when some revolutionaries went to Mohamed Mahmoud Street off Tahrir Square to remember fellow revolutionaries who were shot and killed by security agents on 19 November last year.
The death of 19-year-old Mohamed Gaber – better known as Jicca – on Wednesday after being shot brought back painful memories of the early days of the 25 January Revolution. Jicca was a member of the 6 April movement among which decided to vote for Morsi in the second round of presidential elections to avoid the return of the Mubarak regime.