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WRONG MOVE

After Egypt brokered the peace deal in Gaza, the president of the United States of America hailed Mohammad Mursi, Egyptís president, as a man who could be trusted to deliver. Mr Mursiís latest decree that places his decisions above judicial scrutiny reaffirms that observation. But what the US president missed out was confirmed by the ruthlessness with which Mr Mursi has set himself against the judiciary ó if goods had to be delivered, Mr Mursi would not be bothered about democratic niceties. Mr Mursi has been trying to convince his nation that this goody is the new constitution. This has been endangered both by the army and the judiciary, the last outposts of the Mubarak-era power brokers. Both have come in the way of its drafting ó the army by its constitutional amendments that gave it the power to appoint the constituent assembly, and the judiciary by its rulings on the constitutionality of various bodies, appointed or elected, that have a direct bearing on the drafting of the constitution. Mr Mursi can draw satisfaction from the fact that he negated the armyís efforts in August, when he took over the legislative powers of the supreme council of the armed forces while dismissing or co-opting the major players in the army. The judiciary was his next target. By making the president a law unto himself, Mr Mursi has limited the chances of the supreme constitutional court upsetting the writing of the constitution by ruling against the validity of the constituent assembly. If Mr Mursi so desires, the sanctity of the constituent assembly and the upper house of parliament will now remain undisturbed.

However, instead of accolades, the move has invited open dissension and outright violence. The result would perhaps have been less shocking to Mr Mursi had he been able to gauge the disillusion and even the deep-rooted suspicion among the people about his own aims and those of his party. Large sections of his countrymen are against the strong Islamist slant that the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated constituent assembly is giving to the new constitution. Mr Mursiís own high-handedness that undermines judicial independence and, thereby, overturns the democratic values the revolution upheld, has worsened these suspicions. Mr Mursi should step back from the brink if he is to retain credibility and the nationís trust in him.