President issues declaration sacking prosecutor general and giving himself judicial powers on top of legislative ones.
Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has issued a declaration giving himself sweeping powers that cannot be challenged by any authority.
The decree, which also dismissed Egypt’s prosecutor general, prompted opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei to accuse Morsi of usurping authority and becoming a “new pharoah”.
“The president can issue any decision or measure to protect the revolution,” according to a decree read out on television by presidential spokesman Yasser Ali.
Thursday’s development came one month after a deal was struck that saw Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud continue in office after a failed attempt by Morsi to have him replaced.
The agreement, sealed after a meeting between Morsi and Mahmoud, stipulated that the prosecutor general would remain in office until retirement age.
Al Jazeera’s Peter Greste, reporting from Cairo on Thursday, said the new declaration means that Mahmoud is now retroactively dismissed as he has already been in office for six years.
“What they’ve done is to make an administrative change. The prosecutor general, under the old law, was appointed for life. What the president has done is change the tenure to a four-year term,” he said.
“This is important because here’s a man that a lot of people, including the president, held responsible for the failure of prosecution of the people who were charged with the attempted murder of protesters who were behind the revolution that overthrew [former President] Hosni Mubarak.”
Morsi’s statement also indicated that there would be a re-trial of all who were acquitted of the murder and attempted of protesters, because, according to Morsi’s spokesman, they were acquitted based on flawed evidence.
Morsi as ‘absolute monarch’
Our correspondent said the decision to replace Mahmoud “would be welcomed by a lot of people who believe that the prosecutor general, in particular, was protecting some of the cronies” of Mubarak.
“But at the same time, there are those who are very concerned that this means that the president is overreaching his authority,” Al Jazeera’s Greste said.
“Remember that the parliament has been dissolved and that Morsi effectively made these decisions unilaterally. There can be no debate about this. This is now the law.”
Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, also reporting from Cairo, said that rights groups in Egypt are concerned to see that Morsi “has given himself extraordinary powers”.
“Remember, he already had presidential powers, but also legislative powers … and now he’s given himself judicial powers. Also, another provision says that until there’s a new parliament elected, his decisions will be final and can’t be challenged by any authority,” she said.
Morsi had originally ordered Mahmoud to step down in an apparent bid to appease public anger over the acquittals of Mubarak-era officials accused of orchestrating violence against protesters last year.
But Mahmoud and a powerful judges’ club said the move infringed on the judiciary’s independence, as Egyptian law protects the judicial officials such as the prosecutor-general from be fired by the president.
To overcome the constraints on removing him, Morsi’s decision asked Mahmoud to become ambassador to the Vatican. Mahmoud, however, refused to be re-appointed.
Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University told Al Jazeera that Morsi “is erecting himself as an absolute monarch.”
“He didn’t consult with anybody from the opposition, so he has taken all these decisions alone, without any consultation. The problem is not about the content of the decisions itself, but about the way it was taken,” said Nafaa, who added that Morsi’s decisions are raising many legal issues with “total disregard of the judicial power.”
“This is a dangerous situation for the whole country…it is very confusing, because we don’t know if we are in the presence of a constitutional declaration, or of a law, or of just administrative degrees. We have all of this together in the same statement.” said Nafaa.