Morsi to Address the Nation About Power Grab

Egyptian President to address his nation on Thursday, discuss his decree from last week which expands his powers.

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Elad Benari,

Demonstrators and police clash in Cairo's Tah
Demonstrators and police clash in Cairo's Tah
AFP photo

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will address his nation on Thursday, it was reported on Wednesday evening.

Morsi’s address, which will air on Egyptian state television, will discuss his decree from last week which expands his powers and places him beyond judicial oversight. He is expected to speak about the constitutional decree and why it was issued as well as the events that ensued afterwards.

Under the constitutional declaration, Morsi can issue "any decision or measure to protect the revolution," which are final and not subject to appeal.

The announcement touched off a showdown with Egypt’s judges and sparked charges by the opposition that Morsi was taking on dictatorial powers. Thousands have gathered for anti-Morsi protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, as well as in other areas in Egypt.

Tens of thousands of people packed Tahrir Square on Tuesday to protest Morsi’s power grab. Elsewhere in the country, protesters enraged by the decision attacked three regional headquarters belonging to the president's Muslim Brotherhood movement.

The demonstrations were held a day after Morsi stuck by his decree after a meeting with the country's top judges aimed at defusing the crisis.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, a divisive panel boycotted by liberals and Christians was set to rush out a draft new Egyptian constitution, AFP reported.

Morsi had just last week given the constituent assembly an additional two months until February to complete its work.

But as the top court went on strike over the sweeping powers decree, the panel wrapped up its deliberations and readied for a vote among its members, its chief Ahmed Darrag said.

"The discussions over the draft of the constitution will be finished today, to be followed by voting," Darrag said in remarks carried by the official MENA news agency.

MENA reported that the panel would vote on the draft on Thursday morning. It will then be put to a referendum.

The head of the Islamist-dominated panel, Hossam al-Gheriani, urged the liberal, leftist and Coptic Christian members who walked out to "come back and finish the discussion on Thursday."

"Tomorrow will be a great day," Gheriani said.

The Supreme Constitutional Court had been due to review the legality of the drafting committee on Sunday, but its fate hangs in the balance amid the constitutional vacuum created by Morsi's decree.

Human rights groups have criticized the move to rush through the constitution.

"This is not a healthy moment to be pushing through a constitution because this is an extremely divisive moment," Human Rights Watch Egypt director Heba Morayef told AFP.

"Human rights groups have very serious concerns about some of the rights protections in the latest drafts we've seen," she said.