Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Morsi Strengthens His Control in Egypt

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Morsi Strengthens His Control in Egypt

Article excerpt

CAIRO -- Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi made a series of decisive moves Sunday -- including forcing into retirement several members of the military -- that transformed him from a weak figurehead with little say over key security and constitutional matters into a ruler whose power now appears nearly absolute.

In addition to retiring Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi and Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Sami Annan, Mr. Morsi rewrote the country's interim constitution and named a vice president.

The new appointments and changes to the constitution gave Mr. Morsi control of the country's legislative process, all military decisions and final say over the writing of a permanent constitution.

The moves left the judiciary independent, but evoked both fear over the amount of power Mr. Morsi now has and relief that the last remnants of the regime of Hosni Mubarak have now been sidelined, 18 months after Mubarak resigned from the presidency.

The announcement of the change came in the final 10 days of Ramadan, around a period referred to as Leylet el Qadr, which roughly translates to the Night of Fate. It is considered the holiest time of the month, marking when the angel Gabriel came to Prophet Muhammad and gave him the first Quranic revelations. Some speculated that Mr. Morsi, a former top official in the Muslim Brotherhood, timed the announcement for this night.

In Cairo's Tahrir Square, members of the Brotherhood began gathering in support of Mr. Morsi's decisions, some launching fireworks and chanting.

In a late-night speech, Mr. Morsi said he was acting in the interests of Egypt. He said it was time for "new blood" and peppered his speech with religious references. Although he offered no specifics behind his decision, he suggested that an attack on Egyptian soldiers last week, the deadliest in nearly 40 years, contributed to the moves. …

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