U.S. must move to foster democracy in Egypt

EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT Mohamed Morsi sounds plausible in claiming he is not attempting to establish an Islamic dictatorship. The Muslim Brotherhood nominee, who won a two-round free election this year, issued a sweeping decree last week exempting his decisions from court review — thereby giving him more power than ever wielded by Hosni Mubarak, or any other modern Egyptian ruler. Yet his main aim appeared to be to block reactionary judges from dissolving an assembly now writing a new constitution. Having already dismissed a democratically elected parliament on a technicality, the Mubarak-appointed Supreme Court was threatening to derail the long-delayed transition to a new political system and, perhaps, to tip the country back toward chaos.
Yet Mr. Morsi’s reaction was a huge overreach — as he appeared to recognize Monday after facing a tumultuous weekend of demonstrations. After meeting with the Supreme Judicial Council, which oversees the justice system, the president was said to have agreed that his immunity would extend only to “sovereign matters,” a vague term that nevertheless implied a willingness to accept court checks on most government activity. Mr. Morsi’s original decree says he will retain his exceptional powers only until a new constitution is approved and a new parliament elected — which could take until the middle of next year.

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