(Photo: Reuters/Egyptian Presidency/Handout)
The United States has expressed concerns after Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who is from Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, acquired sweeping powers, prompting another mass uprising in a nation that witnessed a popular unrest overthrowing autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak two years ago.
Calling for calm and dialogue, the U.S. State Department on Friday noted, "One of the aspirations of the revolution was to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution."
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement that Morsi's declaration on Thursday that his decisions cannot be revoked by any authority in the country, not even the judiciary, raises "concerns for many Egyptians and for the international community."
Egypt has a provision constitution since 2011, and until a new constitution is finalized no one can overturn any decree or law Morsi will issue – or has issued since he took office in June.
Nuland said the "constitutional vacuum" must "only be resolved by the adoption of a constitution that includes checks and balances, and respects fundamental freedoms, individual rights, and the rule of law consistent with Egypt's international commitments."
Morsi announced the controversial decree the day a truce he helped spearhead between the Israeli government and the Palestinian party Hamas came into effect after over a week of violence that killed hundreds. A day earlier, on Wednesday, the Egyptian president was praised by the international community. Many believe Morsi used the occasion to gain sweeping powers.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Morsi in Cairo on Wednesday, and said, "Egypt's new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone for regional stability and peace."
However, Mosri's hope that his move would be tolerated shattered as tens of thousands of people took to streets in Cairo on Friday, just as they did during the 2011 uprising. The protesters clashed with government troops, and 140 injuries were reported in Cairo, Port Said and across the nation, state-run EGYNews reported.
Protesters also burned down offices of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing in several cities.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate and head of Egypt's Constitution Party, called Morsi's grab of power "unprecedented." "It's unimaginable, it's more (power) than Mr. Mubarak ever had," CNN quoted him as saying. "This is the language of a dictator."
"Before his election, he promised to be a president for all Egyptians, but what happened [Thursday] night makes it clear that he works only for the permanence of the Muslim Brotherhood in power for as long as possible," Egypt Independent quoted a protester, Yassin el-Omrany, as saying.
"Egyptian [Coptic] churches officially withdrew from the Constituent Assembly in protests of the behavior of Islamist forces, which dominate the assembly and only want to do what's in their interest," added another protester, Mohamed Karim.
"The constituent assembly is acting as if nobody else exists in society. Its formation itself is faulty, it is bias and dominated by only one segment of Egyptian society," Hanan Fikry, a Coptic columnist and activist, recently said, referring to the Islamist political factions within the constitutional assembly.
Egypt's Coptic Christians have faced numerous attacks after the ouster of President Mubarak last year. Mubarak, an authoritarian leader, kept Islamists under tight control. About 10 percent of the 80 million people in Egypt are Christians, mostly Copts.