Anti-Mursi protesters chant anti-government slogans in Tahrir Square in Cairo November 27, 2012. (Photo : Reuters)
Tahrir Square is the site of the protests last year against authoritarian dictator Hosni Mubarak that eventually led to the toppling of the dictatorship and the installation of a shaky but democratic government.
Now, in an effort to push through sweeping changes to governmental policy, Morsi has declared himself the supreme arbiter of law in the country. He has decreed that the judiciary cannot hold him accountable for any actions, and cannot annul any of his proclamations. He has also announced that he may take any action he deems necessary to further the aims of the "revolution."
Morsi says the severe curtailing of the democratic process is necessary because change is being stifled by the judiciary, many of whom were appointed by Mubarak before the fall of the old regime. Indeed, the judiciary earlier disbanded the newly-elected Egyptian parliament, saying it was too Islamist and that the conservative Muslim Brotherhood party had too much power.
Morsi maintains that in order for democratic reforms to move forward, the old judiciary must be swept aside.
But since parliament was disbanded, Morsi has taken over legislative powers. Now that he has subsumed judicial power, too, he is unchallenged, essentially a new autocrat in complete control of the country.
Egyptians, however, are no strangers to protest. Liberals and secularists, afraid of becoming subject to an Islamic state, are taking to the streets to oppose Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
"I now know that the Brotherhood does not work for the nation but for themselves only," said protester Abu Eita, according to state-run Nile TV. "Egypt is not all Brotherhood."
"No one group, like the Muslim Brotherhood, can control and dominate Egypt," said 47-year-old accountant Ayman el-Leithy to Bloomberg News. "Anyone who wants to rule as a dictator is not fit to rule Egypt."
Morsi claims he will relinquish absolute power when reforms of the judiciary have been completed and a constitution has been written. But many protesters fear Morsi will convene a constitutional convention stacked with his supporters.
In response, 80 percent of the judiciary has gone on strike, bringing the business of the country to a screeching halt. Contracts cannot be signed, criminals cannot be tried, marriages cannot be performed.
Morsi shrewdly picked the most opportune time to seize power. He is fresh off a boost in popularity both within Egypt and around the world after brokering a peace deal between Israel and Hamas that ended eight days of brutal rocket attacks in the Gaza Strip that killed over 160 people.