Morsi's speech: Thuggery, gas stations and amendments
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi announced seven decisions on Wednesday, while barely mentioning next week's mass rallies to demand his ouster.
During a lengthy speech televised live from the Cairo International Conference Centre, Morsi commissioned the interior minister to form a unit tasked with combating "thuggery" and terrorism, including the blocking of roads.
He also ordered the formation of a committee to examine proposed constitutional amendments tabled by the opposition, inviting all political parties to submit their proposals from Thursday.
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Furthermore, Morsi ordered the formation of a "national reconciliation committee," consisting of representatives of political parties, Egypt's Al-Azhar, the Coptic Orthodox Church, so-called revolutionary forces and NGOs. The committee, he said, shall be charged with promoting "national dialogue" aimed at bridging gaps between the country's various political factions.
Morsi also authorised Egyptian government ministers and regional governors to sack any officials found to have contributed to recent crises or shortages.
In answer to Egypt's acute petrol shortage, which has seen ever longer queues outside the nation's petrol stations, the president also announced a decision to withdraw the licenses of any gas station found to be hoarding fuel.
In a similar vein, Morsi also commissioned the supply ministry to ensure that gas stations were functioning "in the public interest."
Finally, Morsi ordered government ministers and provincial governors to appoint young advisors (below 40 years old) to their respective teams, stressing that Egyptian youth must assume a greater role in the country's affairs.
"The youth were never given a chance to play a role in the country, and for that I am sorry," he said. "I will make sure they do soon."
Also in the speech, delivered to mark his first year in power, Morsi admitted to "making many mistakes."
But he repeated the usual line of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which he hails, that the media was tarnishing the image of the presidency and government and inciting violence.
He accused former regime figures, such as Mubarak oligarchs Safwat El-Sherif and Zakaria Azmi, of working to destabilise Egypt.
"Soon Safwat El-Sherif and Zakaria Azmi will be considered 'revolutionaries' as well. Why not? Everyone has been acquitted," he said, noting that Egypt's court system had exonerated most former regime figures implicated in cases of corruption.
He also took a swipe at Ahmed Shafiq, the Mubarak-era's last prime minister and Morsi's nemesis in last year's presidential polls.
"Ahmed Shafiq – is he a 'revolutionary'? He's wanted [by the authorities]," the president said, in reference to the host of corruption charges that Shafiq – currently based in the UAE – faces in Egypt.
"He's based abroad yet continues to call for toppling the [Egyptian] government," Morsi said of Sahfiq. "Is that not a crime?"
In terms of his achievements after one year in office, Morsi highlighted his administration's efforts to serve the poor.
"We have increased the monthly minimum wage to LE700 and it will hopefully reach LE1500 in the future… Public-sector salaries have also increased in the state budget from LE96 billion to LE172 billion."
"Also, 52,500 small-scale farmers have been forgiven their outstanding loans," he added, his words often met with applause.
Morsi played down speculation that the military might support opposition demands for his ouster, stressing that he was the commander-in-chief of Egypt's armed forces.
"The armed forces are deployed in several areas to safeguard the public and defend the nation if need be," he said.
Meanwhile, the few thousand protesters arrayed in Cairo's Tahrir Square voiced contempt for Morsi's address, which comes only days before planned mass protests on Sunday to demand he step down.
Friday is expected to see massive counter-rallies by the president's mostly-Islamist supporters, fuelling fears of potential violence.