"This is a very big test for the opposition because they have a cause that they can defend. And it's a very strong cause and a big cause and a public cause, and I think it's a very good chance for the opposition to build its base and rally the streets and rally people," says Bassem Sabry, a blogger and writer. "But the test is not 'can the opposition band together in three days?' The question is how they can band together for three months, and another three months after that."
Last week Morsi issued a constitutional decree declaring his decisions immune from judicial review until a new constitution is written. He also declared that the committee writing Egypt's new constitution, and the upper house of parliament, are protected from being disbanded by a court decision. A court dissolved the first constituent assembly earlier this year, and a second case due to be decided soon could lead to the same outcome for the second body.
Parliamentary elections, to replace the body dissolved by the courts, are scheduled to take place only after a new constitution is adopted in a national referendum. In the absence of an elected parliament, Morsi holds legislative power as well as executive. By sidelining the judiciary, he removed nearly all checks on his power.
Morsi says the move was not an attempt to grasp unlimited power, but was necessary to keep the judiciary, which includes Mubarak appointees many consider corrupt, from putting up endless roadblocks on Egypt's transition to stability. His critics say it places near dictatorial power in his hands.
The president met yesterday with the country's highest judiciary body to try to keep judges from mounting a rebellion against his edict, but the resulting statement – that only Morsi's decisions on vaguely defined "sovereign matters" were immune from judicial review – did not satisfy opposition leaders, parties, and unaffiliated Egyptians, who gathered by the thousands in Tahrir Square today.