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'Gaza ceasefire gave Morsi green light for drastic action'

Published time: November 23, 2012 19:14

Mohamed Morsi addresses his supporters in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on November 23, 2012 (AFP Photo / Str)

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Clashes between Morsi's supporters and opponents swept the nation on Friday, with police firing tear gas at demonstrators in Cairo.

Rallies sprung up in several different cities, after Morsi signed a controversial decree expanding his powers – a move that has divided the country on whether the leader has the right to do so.

And as the controversy around Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood continues to mount, many are quick to compare him to toppled leader Hosni Mubarak.

“Even people who did not vote for him tried to give him a chance, but found that he’s no different than Mubarak in foreign policy,” Said Sadek, a professor of political sociology at American University, told RT.

Sadek’s view is shared by Mark Almond, professor of international relations at Bilkent University in Turkey.

“He’s becoming a devout version of Mubarak, one might say at first sight. He organized the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and almost 24 hours later, he’s effectively declaring himself the absolute ruler of Egypt – for the coming period, anyway,” Almond told RT.

Morsi brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas two days ago. The move was welcomed by Washington, which reportedly talked Tel Aviv into giving it a shot.

Protesters demonstrating against Egypt′s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi run from tear gas fired by Egyptian riot police during clashes in Cairo′s landmark Tahrir square on November 23, 2012 (AFP Photo / Ahmed Mahmoud)
Protesters demonstrating against Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi run from tear gas fired by Egyptian riot police during clashes in Cairo's landmark Tahrir square on November 23, 2012 (AFP Photo / Ahmed Mahmoud)

And Sadek says approval from the US and Israel was at the top of Morsi’s agenda.

“He was able to reach a ceasefire between Gaza, between Hamas and Israel. And because the Americans and Israelis were happy with that, he had a green light now to take a very drastic action inside the country by these draconian regulations… which provoked many of the population,” he said.

No matter whose approval prompted Morsi to issue the declaration, tens of thousands of Egyptians hit the streets in both protest or support of the leader.

For Sadek, the motivation for anti-Morsi demonstrators is clear.

“They want to give a message to President Morsi, and those backing him from the outside, that Egypt is not the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

Morsi addressed the controversial decree during a speech in front of the presidential palace on Friday.

Speaking to a crowd of thousands, the leader said his main goal for the country was safety and stability.

Egypt′s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi addresses his supporters in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on November 23, 2012 (AFP Photo / Str)
Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi addresses his supporters in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on November 23, 2012 (AFP Photo / Str)

However, others say the speech only shows the leader’s lack of tolerance for those who oppose him.  

“One problem is that his idea of democracy – displayed by the fact that he addressed the crowd in the streets today – is very much a populist one, and it’s very much winner takes all. He won the election; the people who voted for him were the majority, and their will should be done,” Almond said.

Meanwhile, the leader has been accused of appointing himself as a “new pharaoh.” But Almond says it’s still too soon to determine whether those cries are justified.

“We’ll see whether he lives up to his promises that he’s really trying to protect the revolution and the demand for liberal democracy. But I fear the problem is that his interpretation of what is democracy is that the majority should rule and the minority should shut their mouths and do what they’re told,” he said.

Sadek says the best way to please both the majority and the minority is to revert back to the country’s old constitution.

“[The old constitution] would avoid those controversial issues that would scare many of the urban population and women and the minorities that Egypt is becoming a Socratic state… but this requires diplomatic, behind-the-scenes intervention from the EU, from Americans, from the United Nations. This is very important to achieve stability. Otherwise President Morsi will have a very unstable regime and condition in the country,” Sadek said.