Eight days after taking office, Mursi decreed on June 8 the reinstatement of the lower house of the parliament, which was dissolved by the country’s highest court for being elected on the basis of unconstitutional rules. Two days later, the Supreme Constitutional Court invalidated Mursi’s decree.
On August 12, Mursi ordered the top two military generals Hussain Tantawi and Sami Anan into retirements and appointed them as presidential advisors. He also named Abdul Fatah Al Sissi, 56, as a defence minister. The move reportedly drew no unfavourable reaction within the army whom Tantawi had commanded for 19 years.
Moreover, Mursi revoked an interim constitution issued by the military curtailing presidential powers and retook legislative authority. He also appointed Mahmoud Mekki, a former judge espousing the judiciary’s independence, as his deputy. The moves drew applause mainly from Islamists and revolutionary activists. Liberals expressed cautious backing, being somewhat worried about Mursi’s combination of executive and legislative powers.
Following a court acquittal of 24 ex-officials and lawmakers of orchestrating deadly attacks on peaceful protesters during the uprising against Mubarak, Mursi on October 12 sacked the country’s chief prosecutor Abdul Majuid Mahmoud, who had been appointed under Mubarak.
Mahmoud defied Mursi’s order and said he would not resign, a reaction supported by the judges. Mursi climbed down, allowing Mahmoud to stay in the job.
Mursi triggered a fresh controversy on November 22 when he issued a constitutional decree, giving himself extensive new powers. He replaced the Mubarak-era top prosecutor, barred courts from dissolving an Islamist-controlled assembly writing a new constitution and exempting all his decisions of judicial review. He also ordered a retrial for former officials cleared of attacks on protesters. The judges denounced the decree as an “unprecedented aggression” on the judiciary. They also called for a nationwide strike to push for a reversal of the decree.
The opposition, comprising mainly liberals and secularists, held massive protests and started an open-ended strike in Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the revolt against Mubarak.
Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist allies, meanwhile, welcomed the decree as revolutionary and took to the streets in a show of support. Violent clashes erupted between opponents and backers in several parts of Egypt.