President Mohamed Morsi has ordered Egypt’s army from Monday to take on police powers — including the right to arrest civilians — in the run-up to a vote on a constitution that has triggered bloodshed.
The decree takes effect on the eve of mass rival protests on the referendum that is to be staged on Saturday, and follows street clashes that have left seven people dead and hundreds injured. It orders the military to fully cooperate with police “to preserve security and protect vital state institutions for a temporary period, up to the announcement of the results from the referendum,” according to a copy of the decree obtained by AFP.
Army officers “all have powers of legal arrest,” it says.
The military, which ruled Egypt between former president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011 to Morsi’s election in June 2012, has sought to remain neutral in the political crisis.
But it has warned it “will not allow” the situation to deteriorate, and urged both sides to have a dialogue.
Army tanks and troops have since Thursday been deployed around Morsi’s presidential palace. But they have not confronted thousands of protesters who have gathered there every night. The opposition, made up of secular, liberal, leftwing and Christian groups, has said it will escalate its protests to scupper the referendum.
It views the new constitution, largely drawn up by Morsi’s Islamist allies, as undermining human rights, the rights of women, religious minorities, and curtailing the independence of the judiciary.