Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was to meet senior judges on Monday in a bid to defuse a crisis that erupted after he assumed sweeping new powers, sparking strikes and deadly protests.
The crisis talks, on the eve of rival rallies which threaten to deepen the country’s divisions, come a day after a member of his party was killed in clashes in the Nile Delta.
Ten people were also wounded in the clashes between supporters and opponents of the president, outside Muslim Brotherhood offices in Damanhour, a doctor at the hospital in the Nile Delta town told AFP.
Several offices belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party have been torched since Morsi’s announcement of his enhanced powers on Thursday.
Morsi’s constitutional declaration which allows him to issue decisions and laws unchallenged on a temporary basis has triggered a wave of protests across the country, and set him on course for a showdown with Egypt’s judges.
Courts in some provinces have suspended work in protest while the journalists’ union has decided in principle to go on strike and a sit-in by opponents of Morsi is being held in the iconic Tahrir Square which was at the heart of last’s year revolution.
The constitutional declaration states that Morsi can issue “any decision or measure to protect the revolution,” which are final and not subject to appeal, sparking charges that he is taking on dictatorial powers.
In a move to assuage his critics, Morsi was to meet the Supreme Judicial Council late in the afternoon after his Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki held preliminary talks with the council, the president’s spokesman Yasser Ali said.
Ahead of the crisis talks, key opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei ruled out any compromise with “a president who is imposing a dictatorship,” but Mekki said that curbs on the widened presidential powers could be discussed with the judges.
An amendment could be added to specify that “the irrevocable decisions of the president apply only to issues related to his sovereign powers and not administrative decisions,” the minister said, quoted by state news agency MENA.