Egypt crisis hits stock exchange

Stocks drop almost 10 per cent as Muslim Brotherhood calls for protests in support of President Morsi’s decree.

Share prices on Egypt’s stock exchange have plunged almost 9.5 per cent, days after President Mohamed Morsi assumed sweeping powers that sparked clashes and polarised the country’s politics.

“Hosni Mubarak, with all his arrogance and dictatorial tendencies, never gave himself the power that no one can appeal his decisions

– Mohamed Abdul Wahad,
Egyptian protester

The main EGX-30 index shed 9.49 per cent by midday (10:00 GMT) on Sunday to reach 4,923.19 points, according to the Egyptian Exchange, with trading suspended for half an hour due to intense investor selling.

The bourse suspended trading for 30 minutes after intense selling by investors, as shares slumped in the first session since the president’s announcement.

But the slide continued as soon as share dealing resumed in the face of the deepening political crisis.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Cairo, Ashraf Naguib, CEO of Global Trade Matters, said the downturn in the bourse will have “a lot of impact on other economic indicators”, such as tourism and foreign investment.

These impacts, Naguib said, will have a strong affect on the “long-term potential” of the already flagging Egyptian economy.

The drop comes as Egyptians have been deeply divided by Morsi’s move to forbid the judiciary from challenging his decisions until a new parliament is elected, with rival rallies sparking violence in several major cities.

Naguib calls Morsi’s reaction decrees a “most blatant disregard of the best interests of the Egyptian people to serve a very minute group, the Muslim Brotherhood”.

The Muslim Brotherhood has called for nationwide protests on Sunday in support of Morsi’s decree, which has put him on a collision course with the judiciary and with many of the political forces that brought down Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising in early 2011.

Renewed clashes

Renewed clashes broke out in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on Sunday morning between protesters and security forces in a street leading to Tahrir Square.

Police fired tear gas as protesters hurled stones on the third day of demonstrations opposing Morsi’s power-extending decree.

Many in Tahrir Square have accused him of hijacking the revolution.

Mohamed Abdul Wahad, a protester, said: “Hosni Mubarak, with all his arrogance and dictatorial tendencies, never gave himself the power that no one can appeal his decisions.”

A camp had been erected in the centre of Tahrir Square where some protesters have remained since thousands
demonstrated on Friday.

The show of strength on the streets by the president’s supporters had the potential for triggering clashes with opponents of the sweeping new powers he assumed on Thursday.

Before dawn, the activists who spent the night in the iconic protest hub fought off an attempt by Morsi supporters to burn down the 30 or so tents they had erected in the square, witnesses said.

Nationwide strikes

A Brotherhood statement called on its well-organised supporters to hold demonstrations after afternoon Muslim prayers in all of Egypt’s main cities to “support the decisions of the president”.

“One of the aspirations of the revolution was to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution

– Victoria Nuland, US state department spokesperson

The Brotherhood’s political arm insists that the president’s decree placing his decisions beyond judicial review was a necessary move to prevent the courts disbanding the panel drawing up a new constitution.

A ruling that had been due from the highest court next month would have had the potential to prolong an already turbulent transition from Mubarak’s rule since his overthrow last year, the Freedom and Justice Party said.

But the judges hit back denouncing “an unprecedented attack on the independence of the judiciary and its rulings” and calling for the courts to stop work nationwide.

Judges in two of the country’s 27 provinces, including Mediterranean metropolis Alexandria, heeded the strike call on Sunday while those in the rest were meeting to decide their response, the Judges Club said.

Tahrir Square, one of the capital’s main road junctions, remained closed to traffic on Sunday as Morsi opponents pressed their sit-in.

Concerns mount over potential of Morsi’s power grab to spark new violence in Arab world’s most populous state

Anti-riot police began erecting a concrete barrier to keep the Tahrir protesters away from nearby government buildings, witnesses said, adding that they made a string of arrests in streets surrounding the square.

The Muslim Brotherhood has also called a “million man” demonstration for Tuesday on Abdeen Square, not far from Tahrir.

Washington, which voiced praise for Morsi’s role in brokering a truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers to end eight days of deadly violence, has led international criticism of his power grab.

“The decisions and declarations announced on November 22 raise concerns for many Egyptians and for the international community,” US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said on Friday.

“One of the aspirations of the revolution was to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution,” she added.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, including former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi, Amr Moussa and Abdelmoneim Abul Futuh, said in a joint statement on Saturday that they would have no dialogue with Morsi until he rescinded his decree.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies