CAIRO – Supporters and opponents of Egypt’s president on Sunday grew more entrenched in their potentially destabilizing battle over the Islamist leader’s move to assume near absolute powers, with neither side appearing willing to back down as the stock market plunged amid the fresh turmoil.
Clashes between the two sides spilled onto the streets for a third day since President Mohammed Morsi issued edicts that make him immune to oversight of any kind, including that of the courts.
A teenager was killed and at least 40 other people were wounded when a group of anti-Morsi protesters tried to storm the local offices of the political arm of the president’s Muslim Brotherhood in the Nile Delta city of Damanhoor, according to security officials.
It was the first reported death from the street battles that erupted across much of the nation Friday, the day after Morsi’s decrees were announced.
The tensions also dealt a fresh blow to the economy, which has suffered due to the problems plaguing the Arab world’s most populous nation since Mubarak’s ouster. Egypt’s benchmark EGX30 stock index dropped 9.59 percentage points Sunday in the first trading session since Morsi issued his decrees. The losses were among the biggest since the turbulent days and weeks immediately after Mubarak’s ouster in a popular uprising last year. The loss in the value of shares was estimated at close to $5 billion.
The judiciary, the main target of the edicts, has pushed back, calling the decrees a power grab and an assault on the branch’s independence. Judges and prosecutors stayed away from many courts in Cairo and other cities on Sunday.
But the nation’s highest judicial body, the Supreme Judiciary Council, watered down its opposition to the decrees Sunday. It told judges and prosecutors to return to work and announced that its members would meet with Morsi today to try to persuade him to restrict immunity to major state decisions such as declaring war or martial law or breaking diplomatic relations with foreign nations.
Hundreds of protesters staging a sit-in at Cairo’s Tahrir Square vowed not to leave before Morsi rescinds his decrees. The two sides have called for massive rival protests Tuesday in Cairo.