Egypt prepares for mass rallies

A protester waves an Egyptian flag amidst clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square on 25 November 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Published Monday, November 26, 2012

Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to rally in Egypt’s Tahrir Square Tuesday against President Mohammed Mursi’s recent decree granting him broad executive powers as the Islamist leader prepares to meet with senior judges Monday to diffuse tensions.

Two people have already died in violent street protests since Mursi issued the decree Thursday that allows him to make "any decision or measure to protect the revolution," which in effect bypasses judicial oversight and provides the president with absolute powers.

Mursi has insisted that the decree is “temporary” and needed to cleanse Egypt’s political structure of Mubarak loyalists, but his opponents accuse him of seeking dictatorial powers.

“[The decree] is deemed necessary in order to hold accountable those responsible for the corruption as well as the other crimes during the previous regime and during the transitional period," Mursi said on Sunday.

Former presidential candidates and opposition leaders Mohammed el-Baradei, Hamdeen Sabbahi, Amr Moussa and AbdelMoneim Abul Futuh have established a united front against Mursi, declaring Saturday that there would be no dialog until the decree is rescinded.

Some courts across the country have been closed as judges strike against the decree. The journalists’ union also announced its decision to join the strike.

Hundreds of the president’s opponents camped out in Tahrir Square overnight Sunday in protest of the decree following three consecutive days of protests across different cities where violent clashes took place between the president's supporters and opponents.

Anti-Mursi demonstrators set fire to at least three offices belonging to the president’s Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party on Friday.

“Tahrir Square is closed,” Amir Elshenawy, an Egyptian activist, told Al-Akhbar on Monday. “Protesters themselves have set up checkpoints in every entrance to the square.”

The Muslim Brotherhood has called on its supporters to take part in a counter demonstration Tuesday in Giza.

In a bold move Saturday that may further aggravate tensions in the country, Mursi quietly ratified a separate law that grants the government authority to appoint members to the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF).

The unannounced decision allows the MB-affiliated minister of Manpower and Emigration to appoint party members to high level positions in the union once vacancies open.

Activists say the new law represents a further push by Mursi to assert control over labor unions that have been largely monopolized by the government for decades.

Last year’s revolution brought hope to Egypt’s labor movement that years of fighting for independent unions may lead to victory, but the new law has dealt a heavy blow to their efforts.

The Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, which is separate from ETUF, announced it would take part in the anti-Mursi demonstrations Tuesday and its members plan to strike against the new labor law.

(Al-Akhbar)

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