The French press agency headline says it all: “Egypt’s [President] Morsi assumes sweeping powers, branded new pharaoh.” Mursi has issued a decree giving himself virtually dictatorial powers and contradicting the assumption that he—and his Muslim Brotherhood organization—intend to rule democratically. Opposition forces said this constituted a coup.
Mursi’s spokesman explained the decree in these terms: the president can issue any decree he wishes to protect the revolution. “The constitutional declarations, decisions and laws issued by the president are final and not subject to appeal.”
It seems apparent that this is another step in the process toward the fundamental transformation of Egypt into an Islamist, Sharia-ruled state. If one views the 2011 revolution as a democratic one, then Mursi is destroying it. But of course he and the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists see it as an Islamist revolution, parallel to the 1979 Iranian revolution — though in Egyptian terms, of course. Lest there be any illusions about what this means, note that Mursi is one man whose legitimacy is not established in practice–despite having won an election–and who cannot depend on the country’s institutions to obey him. The power behind Mursi is not that he is president but that he has the support of the country’s strongest group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and can generally count on the Salafists as well.