Middle East

Egypt crisis: 'Morsi has split the country down the middle'

A protester holds a placard against the Egyptian president at an opposition rally in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Nov. 27,
Image caption Tens of thousands of people demonstrated across the country on Tuesday

Egyptian protesters have vowed continued defiance against a decree granting President Mohammed Morsi wide-ranging new powers.

Mr Morsi has said the decree will be limited in scope, and his backers say the decree is needed to protect the gains of the revolution against a judiciary with ties to the Mubarak era.

Here people in Egypt share their views on the president's decision.

Salah Mustafa, 35, lawyer, Cairo,

I voted for Morsi but since his election he has been acting like a delegate of the Muslim Brotherhood to the presidential palace - and not as the president of all Egyptians.

He has been getting in bed with figures of the old regime, preparing a horrible draft constitution and now proclaiming himself a pharaoh.

The president's reassurances won't work, because all he is doing is anointing himself pharaoh one day, then saying he won't abuse this power on the next day.

We are not going to allow people to make the same mistakes we made in the past. President Nasser once promised to give power back to civilians.

Morsi must do two things. First, there must be checks and balances - he must cancel the decree that gave him extended powers. Secondly, he must reform the assembly that is writing the constitution so it represents everyone in the country.

I was in Tahrir Square during the revolution and I went there again on Tuesday.

It's unfortunate that my demands are still same - bread, freedom and social justice.

If Morsi doesn't get it, well, we have seen this movie before and all know where this is going to end.

Nabila Abdullah, 60, agricultural engineer, Cairo

Not only do I agree, but a majority of people I know are in agreement and support President Morsi and what he did.

He did not give himself unchecked power.

He merely took unchecked power away from the judiciary - which is still full of personalities from the Mubarak era - until the constitution is done and there are systems in place to allow the country to move forward.

The president's declaration is an absolute necessity. We hear judges declaring that they will dissolve the upper house of parliament, or the constitution committee, weeks before their session is due and even before cases are properly presented or discussed.

Most importantly, by design this protection of the president's declarations is temporary - only until the constitution is written and congress is elected.

That is not dictatorship. What is a dictatorship is when judges overturn the people's elected institutions.

There are many polls taken from online media portals and social media pages that show an overwhelming majority support the decisions of the president.

Ayman Qenawi, 38, journalist, Cairo

It's a dilemma, really. I do support Morsi's sacking of the prosecutor general. I do understand why he decided to shield his decisions against a politicised judiciary.

But the problem is, the president's new powers make him almost like a god and we are asked to "trust" that he will not misuse them just because he says so.

There are no guarantees other than his word, which for a people emerging from six decades of dictatorships is just not good enough.

Personally, I don't really think he plans to use his powers in a negative way. But it is the principle that matters. Absolutely power corrupts absolutely and I don't want to see him become corrupted by power.

He also made a mistake by explaining his decision in front of his supporters on Friday. He should have made the same speech on television for the whole nation.

Morsi has split the country down the middle - with one camp saying he is a new dictator and another saying he is a very good president trying to protect the revolution.

But there are also people like me who lie in-between the two camps, and I think the president has been trying to reassure this group of people.

Magdy Amin Mokhtar, 61, retired, Giza

I think President Morsi was right to issue the decree as a way to avoid any abuse of juridical power by people still loyal to the old regime. I don't think he did it to get more power for himself.

But he should show good intentions by exerting more serious and positive efforts to narrow the gap between all political parties and reach a consensus on the constitution.

I am afraid the president underestimated the reaction of liberal public opinion - such people have a deep fear of Islamic domination and look for any opportunity to embarrass and get rid of the Islamists.

On the other hand, I think Morsi has the good intention of seeking political stability.

The key issue now is not the decree itself but the division between pro- and anti-Islamists. If the same decree was issued by a liberal president you would have seen a reverse situation.

My family support the Islamists, although we all have a liberal lifestyle, while most of my friends are against the Islamists and so do not agree with the decree.

I do not know what will happen next because public opinion is equally divided.

Interviews by Nathan Williams, BBC News

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