CAIRO – Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first-ever elected civilian president, recently granted himself sweeping temporary powers in order, he claims, to attain the objectives of the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship. But the decrees incited strong opposition from many of the revolutionary forces that helped to overthrow Mubarak (as well as from forces loyal to him), with protests erupting anew in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Morsi has thus been put in the odd position of having to defend his decision against the protesters while simultaneously making common cause with them. "I share your dream of a constitution for all Egyptians and with three separate powers: executive, legislative, and judicial," he told his opponents. "Whoever wants Egyptians to lose this opportunity, I will stop him." So, was Morsi's "auto-coup" necessary to realize the revolution's avowedly democratic goals?
The new Constitutional Declaration, the Revolution Protection Law, and the new presidential decrees have several aims:
· To remove the public prosecutor, a Mubarak-era holdover who failed to convict dozens of that regime's officials who had been charged with corruption and/or abuse of power;
· To protect the remaining elected and indirectly elected institutions (all of which have an Islamist majority) from dissolution by Constitutional Court judges (mostly Mubarak-era holdovers);
· To bring about retrials of Mubarak's security generals;
· To compensate and provide pensions for the victims of repression during and after the revolution.