independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Stocks tumble after Morsi edicts

President Mohammed Morsi's edicts have sparked protests across Egypt (AP)

Egypt's benchmark stock index plunged by nearly 10% in the first trading session since the country's Islamist president issued decrees to assume sweeping new powers.

President Mohammed Morsi's edicts, which were announced on Thursday, place him above oversight of any kind, including that of the courts. The move has thrown Egypt's already troubled transition to democracy into further turmoil, sparking angry protests across the country to demand the decrees be immediately rescinded.

The judiciary, which was the main target of Morsi's edicts, has hit back. Judges and prosecutors stayed away from several courts in Cairo and across much of the country.

The nation's highest judicial body called on judges and prosecutors to return to work and announced that its members would meet with Mosri on Monday to try to persuade him to restrict immunity to major state decisions like declaring war or martial law.

With the opening bell of the country's stock market, on the first day of the working week in Egypt, the turmoil spread from the country's bitter politics to its already ailing economy. The Egyptian Exchange's EGX30 index dropped 9.59 percentage points, making the losses among the biggest since the turbulent days and weeks immediately after the removal of Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising last year.

The loss in the value of shares was estimated at close to five billion dollars (£31.bn).

Morsi, who narrowly won the presidency in June, said his measures were designed to "protect the revolution," but they triggered an uproar among non-Islamist political groups now vowing to press on with street protests to force him to back down.

Morsi's office issued a statement defending his decrees, repeating the argument he used when addressing supporters on Friday outside his Cairo palace that the measures were designed to bolster the country's transition to democratic rule and dismantle Mubarak's old regime.

"The presidency reiterates the temporary nature of the said measures, which are not meant to concentrate powers," it said. The statement also pledged Morsi's commitment to engaging all political forces in drafting a new constitution. Secular and Christian members withdrew from the panel drafting the document, claiming that the Islamists who dominate the body have hijacked the process to produce a charter with an Islamist slant.

Prominent Egyptian democracy advocate Mohammed ElBaradei warned on Saturday of increasing turmoil that could potentially lead to the military stepping in unless Morsi rescinds his new powers, as the country's long fragmented opposition sought to unite and rally new protests. Egypt's liberal and secular forces - long divided, weakened and uncertain amid the rise of Islamist parties to power - are seeking to rally themselves in response to the decrees.

Press Association

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