Rejection of President Morsi’s new constitutional declaration will likely take centre stage in planned Friday protests commemorating last year’s clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street.
President Mohamed Morsi’s Thursday constitutional declaration has prompted Egyptian political forces that had been planning to commemorate last year’s Mohamed Mahmoud clashes with mass protests on Friday to fine-tune their demands.
Over 30 political groups had planned to take part in Friday’s protests – dubbed ‘Eyes of Freedom’ in reference to the many protesters who lost eyes in the clashes – to articulate three main demands.
Those demands included the dismissal of Morsi’s cabinet; prosecuting police officers responsible for killing and injuring protesters in the series of clashes that followed last year’s Tahrir Square uprising; and a purge and restructuring of Egypt’s national police force.
The president’s new declaration, however, is likely to change the focus of Friday’s planned protests.
“This is unacceptable; Morsi is preventing the judiciary from doing its job,” said Emad Gad, political analyst and member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, which is planning to take part in Friday’s planned rallies.
According to Thursday’s constitutional declaration, the president’s decisions cannot be overturned by any judicial authority. “The move amounts to a coup against the judiciary,” Gad stated.
While the declaration also calls for the retrial of all those accused of killing and injuring “revolutionaries,” Gad believes the phrasing is too general and will be used by the Muslim Brotherhood – the movement from which Morsi hails – to settle scores with traditional rivals.
The constitutional declaration also protects the Constituent Assembly (tasked with drafting a new constitution) and the Shura Council (the upper, consultative house of Egypt’s parliament) from potential court rulings calling for their dissolution.
The Constituent Assembly has been severely criticised and suffered several withdrawals by members who object to its high proportion of Islamist-leaning representatives.
Morsi’s decision is viewed by many as a move towards dictatorship. The declaration also limited the prosecutor-general term to four years which automatically brings the current prosecutor-general’s tenure to an end.
“I’m sure the protests tomorrow will come out against the declaration, while also voicing the original demands,” Gad told Ahram Online, adding that Morsi’s Thursday move was likely to bolster public participation at the planned rallies.
Mosaab Shahrour, a member of the April 6 youth movement, agrees. “The mobilising power for Friday’s protests will double,” he said, adding that demonstrators were likely to focus chiefly on the new constitutional declaration. “Protesters will object to the idea of creating a new dictatorship,” he said.
Mohamed Waked, founder of the National Front for Justice and Democracy (which plans to attend the Friday protests), says the move is certain to further stoke existing tensions between Islamists and their political adversaries.
“If a court is investigating a case, then something is wrong with it,” he said, commenting on the lawsuit against the Constituent Assembly that might have deemed it unconstitutional.
“The declaration represents a pre-emptive measure aimed at preventing any potential ruling against the assembly,” Waked asserted.
Asked whether plans for Friday’s rallies would change, Waked said that participants would definitely address the constitutional declaration. He added, however, that the front’s plans were still being discussed.
A joint statement by several parties and movements that were already planning to take part in Friday’s rallies have called for mass protests against the declaration.
Signatories to the statement included the Constitution Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Free Egyptians Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Democratic Front Party, the Egypt Freedom Party, the Egyptian Popular Current and the National Association for Change.
Protest marches have been planned to begin after noonday prayers from the Cairo districts of Mohandessin, Sayyeda Zeinab and Shubra. All of them will converge on Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Other groups that plan to participate include 6 April, the Kazeboon campaign, the Mosireen Media Collective, the ‘No to Military Trials for Civilians’ campaign, the Maspero Youth Union, the New Woman Foundation, the Youth for Justice and Freedom movement, and others.