CAIRO: Tens of thousands of protesters poured into Tahrir Square on Tuesday night to contest what they believe is Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi's illegal declaration that his decisions are exempt from judicial oversight, marking the largest protests ever against the newly elected President.
It was not clear whether the chants of thousands calling for a second revolution would lead Dr Mursi to rescind, modify or wait out opponents to his five-day-old constitutional declaration. Instead, it appeared the crowds, notably absent of the Islamists who are Dr Mursi's base, simply reflected an increasingly polarised electorate. Many who were protesting said they boycotted the election that led to Dr Mursi's presidency or voted for his rival.
Clashes across Egypt
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Clashes across Egypt
RAW VISION: Protests against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi spread beyond Cairo in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
If Dr Mursi sticks to his declaration, the feud over who has the final say over the nation's judicial matters will come to a head on Sunday, when the courts are expected to make three key rulings. The courts will determine whether Dr Mursi acted legally when he changed the temporary constitution in July to end military rule - leading to the firing of Field Marshall Mohamed Tantawi, the head of the ruling military council - and giving Dr Mursi final say over military matters, the first time a civilian has had such power in Egypt's modern history; whether the assembly charged with crafting a permanent constitution is legal, since it was elected by the now-defunct parliament, which the courts earlier ruled was illegally constituted; and whether the Shura Council, the upper house of parliament, should be dissolved.
If the courts rule against Dr Mursi, it remains unclear whether his decree or the judicial rulings would prevail - or who will decide that. In the meantime, several judges have suspended their work in protest.
Protesters charged on Tuesday that Dr Mursi only represents the interests of his base, his former party, the Muslim Brotherhood, the group largely responsible for his narrow election victory.
Opponents claim Dr Mursi is trying to consolidate power on behalf of the Brotherhood. He was elected to represent all, they say, not just those who supported him.
Dr Mursi's declaration appeared to be a tipping point for an increasingly frustrated half of the country that wanted to see revolutionary change.
Instead, critics say, much remains the same.
Under the proposed permanent constitution, the military still controls an unchecked large segment of the economy and the government does not review the military's budget, just as under the former president Hosni Mubarak.
Meanwhile, much sought after police reforms have yet to happen, and Dr Mursi gave himself legislative power after a court ruling found that parliament had been wrongly elected.
Egypt's Brotherhood defends Mursi
As protests against Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi escalate, a senior Muslim Brotherhood official disagrees with the clashes, stating that Mursi is not a dictator.
The size of the crowds on Tuesday rivalled the celebrations of Dr Mursi's June election and the lifetime sentence handed down to Mubarak for the deaths of protesters during the 2011 revolution.
''We had a revolution for democracy, not for one person to rule like a dictator,'' said Rami Sayed, 29, an accountant who boycotted the election that led to Dr Mursi's presidency, saying he believed it was rigged as he marched towards Tahrir Square.