By Con Coughlin
It is not only the anti-government protesters in Egypt’s Tahrir Square who should be concerned about President Mohammed Morsi’s audacious power grab. Mr Morsi’s claim at the weekend that “God’s will and elections made me the captain of this ship” has echoes of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s claim during the 1979 Iranian revolution that his mission to overthrow the Shah enjoyed divine guidance.
Since his announcement that he was granting himself sweeping new powers, Mr Morsi has been trying to reassure sceptical Egyptian voters that he has no ambition to become Egypt’s new Pharaoh. But you only have to look at the violent scenes that have once again erupted in Tahrir Square to see that the majority of Egyptians remain unconvinced.
When Egyptian demonstrators first occupied Tahrir Square last year to call for the overthrow of Mr Morsi’s predecessor, President Hosni Mubarak, they were calling for a secular, democratic system of government that would represent the interests of all Egyptians, and not just the corrupt clique of presidential supporters. Similar sentiments were expressed by Iranian demonstrators during the build-up to the Shah’s overthrow in February 1979 as they sought to remove a similarly corrupt regime.
But as we now know to our cost, the worthy aspirations of the Iranian masses were hijacked by Khomeini’s hardline Islamist agenda, and within months of the Shah’s overthrow Iran had been transformed into an Islamic republic.
Mr Morsi says he has no desire to become a dictator, but his announcement that, henceforth, all presidential decrees will be immune from legal challenge does not bode well for Egypt’s transition from military dictatorship to democracy.
I am sure I am not the only one wondering whether Mr Morsi is about to become the new Ayatollah Khomeini.
Certainly, unless Mr Morsi backs down, all those who sacrificed their lives in the cause of the Egyptian revolution will have died in vain.