Egypt's President Morsi was recently elevated to the world stage by the U.S. when he was praised for playing a major role in Wednesday's tenuous ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians. It was an unusual announcement by Sect. of State Hillary Clinton, that credited Morsi with leading the way for this agreement. To show his mutual respect, the next day Morsi proclaimed himself to be beyond the reach of the law which sparked more protests in Tahrir square. Tahrir Square should by now be well known as the place where 18 months ago, protestors against former President Mubarek rose up and eventually forced his downfall, with the support of President Obama. Protestors are back now because they feel Morsi has gone too far in establishing this protection for the new laws he has put into place which he claims are only temproary, and only for the specific purpose of prohibiting pro-Mubarek government officials from blocking Morsi's reforms.
The essence of Morsi's decree was that his actions would be exempted from all judicial review or legal challenge until a new parliament was elected. Currently there is an Assembly in place that is tasked with writing a new constitution, but things have been contentious and many non-Islamic representatives like the Coptic Christians have quit. Morsi claims things are moving too slowly toward democracy, so this decree will help alleviate a logjam. The new powers allowed Morsi to fire the general prosecutor and opened the door to allow retrial of Mubarek and his aides. The protestors believe Morsi's sweeping new powers will lead to a dictatorial state, not a democratic one.
With the delay of a written constitution, it could be an indefinite amount of time as to when a new parliament would be elected. This is at least several months, if not more, into the future. Until that time, Morsi now has the power to pass any laws without the ability of the people to oppose them. This action moves away from democracy, not toward it.
Democracy moves slow, and is intended to be that way. We often hear President Obama lamenting that he wishes he could just impose his will on Congress. His latest statement to this effect came a few days ago while he was giving a speech in Burma. Obama's continued disdain for the Constitution should be troublesome to all Americans.
Now, how did the U.S. get played? Hillary Clinton and Obama both praised Morsi for his efforts to broker the ceasefire - the U.S. gave him credit in front of the world for being such a respectable and level headed leader in a tense situation. Literally, the next day Morsi imposed a law declaring himself to be above it. Now what can the U.S. say about that without losing credibility? Further, Morsi's action shouldn't really come as a surprise if people understand where he comes from - he has strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, who advocate for sharia law to also be national law.
Democracy depends upon the voice of the people, not of just one person, so Morsi's actions are clearly antithetical to the promotion of a democratic state. The protests beginning again by Egyptian people show that they recognize Morsi's action to be in contradiction to what they believed the revolution, the Arab Spring, to be about - ridding itself of the dictator Mubarek. But now Morsi has pushed the U.S. into a corner. He secured U.S. aid to Egypt by brokering the peace, and the U.S. cannot withdraw from that promise without tarnishing its reputation even further in the region and the world. The U.S. cannot now say, "Yesterday Morsi was wonderful, but today not so much." That does little to affect Morsi, but damages the credibility of the U.S. Clever, no?