Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Morsy-judiciary truce may stoke crisis

DUBAI, November 28, 2012

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy appears to have edged closer to a truce with the judiciary on terms that would still allow him to steer the Constitution framing process as before and face an incensed opposition on a much stronger footing.

Mr. Morsy's spokesman Yasser Ali clarified that powers endowed to the President by last week's constitutional declaration, which were interpreted by critics as a hasty power grab, were not all encompassing. Mr.Morsy would be immune to judicial intervention on "sovereign" issues alone Mr. Ali said, late on Monday, following talks that lasted several hours between the President and top judges.

Analysts say that the President's authority on "sovereign issues" implies that courts would not be able to dissolve the Constituent Assembly and Shura Council, while other presidential decisions could be challenged before the courts.

It appears that Mr. Morsy has achieved a compromise with Egypt's judiciary, which may have persuaded the President to yield ground only on peripheral issues, without touching the core elements of his new powers.

On Sunday, the apex Supreme Judicial Council, had signaled its intention to the meet the President half-way. It said in a statement that Mr. Morsy's decree should apply to "sovereign matters," stopping well short of an outright rejection of the President's position.

Details are still sketchy, but if a rapprochement between the President and the judiciary materialises fully, it can deliver a heavy blow to the anti-Morsy protesters, who would no longer be able to pursue the judicial route to attack the existing Constituent Assembly.

Mr. Morsy's critics say that the current Assembly is unrepresentative of the country\'s social mosaic, as it is packed with Islamists — a charge that its affiliates and the Muslim Brotherhood,

Mr. Morsy's parent organisation, has vigorously denied.

Following the meeting with the judges, the Muslim Brotherhood has decided to postpone Tuesday's mass demonstrations in support of the presidential decree, probably to avoid clashes with anti-Morsy protesters, who have been converging in considerable strength at Tahrir Square, Cairo's anti-establishment icon. The brushes in the streets have already cost teenage lives, and hardened animosities between the two camps.

Islam Masoud, a 15-year-old Muslim Brotherhood supporter was killed during recent clashes with rivals in Damanhour, a city along the Nile Delta. Separately, the 16-year-old Gaber Salah has

died of his injuries sustained during earlier protests with the police — his funeral feeding into the outrage against President Morsy's decree.

Mr. Ali said that during the meeting with the judges, Mr. Morsy expressed his appreciation for the judiciary, whose independence, he said, must be maintained because it is "the last resort for the people to get their rights". The President also stressed that those accused of killing protesters would face re-trials only if new evidence was produced against them.

While the polarisation between the Islamists and the Liberals have hogged the headlines, there were some advocating a fair compromise that stood on middle-ground. Abdel-Moneim Fotouh, a former Brotherhood activist, and founder of Strong Egypt Party, had urged the President to amend the declaration and start a process of national dialogue. The former presidential candidate had also advocated avoidance of rival rallies, in order to cool-off the country's rising political temperature.
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