Clashes between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi were reported throughout Egypt Nov. 23, as protesters filled the streets to decry Morsi's decree exempting his decisions from legal challenge until a new parliament is elected. Street-fighting erupted in the governorates of Alexandria, Ismailia, Assiut, Port-Said, Suez, Mahalla, Damietta, Daqahilya, Menya and Aswan. Protesters attacked Muslim Brotherhood offices in several cities, including Alexandria. In Cairo's Tahrir Square, thousands chanted "Morsi is Mubarak, revolution everywhere!" When police tried to clear the square with tear-gas, protesters fought back with hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails. At least 18 were injured across the country.
While opponents accused him of launching a "coup" and derided him as a "new pharaoh," Morsi told a crowd of supporters outside the presidential palace that Egypt is on the path to "freedom and democracy." Said Morsi: "Political stability, social stability and economic stability are what I want and that is what I am working for. I have always been, and still am, and will always be, God willing, with the pulse of the people, what the people want, with clear legitimacy."
The protests came the day after Morsi undercut a hostile judiciary that had been considering whether to scrap an Islamist-dominated panel drawing up a new constitution, stripping judges of the right to rule on the case or to challenge his decrees. The move effectively places Morsi above judicial oversight until a new constitution is ratified. "Morsi is a 'Temporary' Dictator," read the banner headline in the Friday edition of independent daily al-Masry al-Youm.
A spokesman for Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) said the decree was necessary to ensure the transitional period. "We need to move things in the right direction," said Murad Ali. "We need stability. That's not going to happen if we go back again to allowing the judges, who have personal reasons, to dissolve the constituent assembly in order to prolong the transitional phase." (Reuters, Nov. 24; Ahram Online, Middle East Online, BBC News, al-Masry al-Youm, Nov. 23)