The emergency law has returned to Egypt less than two years after Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power, when Mohammed Morsi reintroduced it to curb unrest which claimed 33 lives over the weekend. It is a remarkable move given that the law epitomised much of what was wrong with Mubarak’s administration and fuelled the anger against him. Provisions in the law allow police to detain suspects indefinitely, often with little evidence; subvert constitutional rights; and curb press freedoms. Mubarak used these laws throughout his thirty year rule.
The Muslim Brotherhood is sensitive to accusations of authoritarianism despite Morsi frequently revealing his proclivity for repression. He has already pushed through an Islamist constitution which leaves minorities exposed and fails to provide adequate protections for both freedom of expression and religion.
Now, Morsi insists, the emergency law will only operate for thirty days and only in those cities which experienced violence over the weekend (Port Said, Suez, and Ismailiya). Yet, it is a significant departure from his pre-election position when Morsi described the emergency law as inherently dictatorial, offering a vivid illustration of just how far the ideals of Egyptian revolutionaries have been degraded.