Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi gave the military new authority on Monday; the army will now be able to arrest civilians and will be tasked with working directly with police “to preserve security and protect vital state institutions” until the election results of the December 15 constitutional referendum are declared.
Morsi’s latest mandate providing the army with new powers comes after violent protests rocked Egypt. Last Tuesday, Morsi was forced to briefly flee the presidential palace through a back door after protesters broke through security barriers. Wednesday saw an escalation of violence when four people died and more than 270 were injured after clashes broke out between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators in Cairo. And on Friday, tens of thousands of protesters rejected a call for dialogue with the president and sprayed graffiti on the palace walls.
Anti-Morsi protesters in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Dec. 4, 2012. (Photo: Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters)
Mohammed Morsi’s crisis began in late November after he issued a decree giving himself unchecked power over the judiciary, angering Egyptians. They were further enraged by Morsi’s rush to hold a referendum Saturday on a draft constitution written by an Islamist-dominated body whose legitimacy was being questioned in the court system. Over the weekend, Morsi annulled that controversial November decree after the army issued its first statement since the crisis began, warning that “Anything other than that (dialogue) will force us into a dark tunnel with disastrous consequences; something that we won’t allow.” This did not pacify the president’s opponents, however, who are expected to rally on Tuesday against the upcoming constitutional referendum.
While Morsi’s recent actions unified opposition groups against him, the new constitution is still expected to pass. If that occurs, and tensions continue to rise, it remains unclear what exactly the Egyptian army would do to stem prolonged instability — and how Morsi would respond.