Violence broke out in cities across Egypt yesterday (Friday) as demonstrators took to the streets and besieged Muslim Brotherhood offices in anger at authoritarian new powers seized by President Mohammed Morsi.
Headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political front, the Freedom and Justice Party, were ransacked and burned in Alexandria, Port Said and Ismailiya. Protesters described Mr Morsi as “Egypt’s new pharaoh” and said his declaration on Thursday night was a “constitutional coup”.As noted earlier, developments in Egypt are of huge, structural significance and will have deep impact on U.S. foreign policy. I'll have more later, but meanwhile check out Barry Rubin, "News Flash: Egypt’s Islamist President Assumes Dictatorial Powers." (Via Memeorandum.)
In Cairo, the biggest demonstrations for months filled Tahrir Square, reviving the spirit and chants of last year’s revolution against the country’s former leader, ex-President Hosni Mubarak. “Out, out,” the crowd chanted. The people want the downfall of the regime.”
Mr Morsi publicly defended his decision to make his decrees unchallengeable by law as necessary to complete Egypt’s transformation. He told a crowd of supporters gathered in front of the presidential palace that he was trying to stop a “minority” trying to “block the revolution”.
He also alleged that money stolen under the old regime was being used to fund new protests, including by "thugs" - a politically loaded term suggesting that the pro-democracy protesters were the same as Mr Mubarak's hired henchmen.
"There are weevils eating away at the nation of Egypt," he told them, insisting that he by contrast, was trying to assure "political stability, social stability and economic stability".
"I have always been, and still am, and will always be, God willing, with the pulse of the people, what the people want, with clear legitimacy," he said.
Mr Morsi, fresh from his success in negotiating a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Wednesday night, made the unexpected announcement of his new powers on Thursday.