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Morsi's About-Face In Showdown With Egyptian Judiciary



CAIRO – ‘Chaotic’ is the only word to describe the Egyptian political scene right now. There is of course the ongoing battle among and within the three main movements in post-Mubarak Egypt: Islamists, secularists and those who still support the old regime (foloul). But over the past few days, the nation’s judicial system has been added as a potentially explosive political hot potato.

It started Thursday when Egyptian State television reported that President Mohamed Morsi had nominated the general prosecutor, Abdel Meguid Mahmoud to become the new Egyptian ambassador to the Vatican, effectively removing him from the key judicial post.

Morsi’s move came after the controversial acquittal of officials from former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime who had been accused of orchestrating the deadly Feb 2, 2011 riots in Tahrir square that pro-democracy forces refer to as "the battle of camels."

Many Egyptians, including Morsi’s own Muslim Brotherhood, called for protests in Tahrir the next day, accusing the general prosecutor of tampering with the evidence presented during the trials. With conflicting messages about both the trial and the President’s tactics, violent confrontations erupted, leaving around 40 injured between Islamists and non-Islamists, initially all fighting for the same cause.

Meanwhile, in the closed corridors of Egyptian politics, the debate was heating up. On Saturday, El Watan reported that the general prosecutor told Morsi he would never accept the Vatican assignment. "Over my dead body", he reportedly said.

According to the law, the general prosecutor, though nominated by the President, can not be removed from his position by any authority, until the retirement age of 70.

Ultimately, by Sunday, it appeared Morsi had lost the battle, and was forced to respect the decisions of the judicial system, Al Chark Al Awsat reported.

The Muslim Brotherhood criticized Morsi's about-face, and threatened further protests against the general prosecutor. At the same time, the most traditionalist Islamic movement of Salafists (El Nour party, which hold 20% support in Parliament), said that respecting the judge's decisions was the right thing to do. The Salafists took a swipe at the president, saying he should "take his time before rushing in taking such decisions," Al Masry Al Youm reported.

The latest political squabbling may soon be seen as the moment the Muslim Brotherhood turned against its own former candidate, while Morsi gains support from secular pro-democracy activists. Egyptian politics is getting ever more difficult to decipher: paradoxically, it may be a true sign of democracy.

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