The violence and polarization has led to warnings from some newspaper columnists and the public at large of the potential for "civil war."
"As opposed to seeking face-saving compromises, (escalation by Morsi) would indicate starkly that Egypt's leaders have increasingly come to understand the current moment in zero-sum terms," said Michael W. Hanna, an Egypt expert from the New York-based Century Foundation.
"Beyond the political dangers it poses, the move will increase the risks that the contests for power will spill over into the streets, with civil strife a real possibility."
While potentially destabilizing, Morsi's tug-of-war with the liberal opposition pales in comparison to his battle with the powerful judiciary, which considers the president's decrees an unprecedented assault on its authority.
On Wednesday, judges of the nation's highest appeals court and its lower sister court went on strike to protest the decrees, joining hundreds of other judges who have not worked since Sunday.
The Supreme Constitutional Court, which is to rule Sunday on the legality of the constitutional panel and parliament's upper chamber — both dominated by Morsi's Brotherhood and other Islamists — admonished the president for accusing it of trying to bring down his government.
The loss of the judiciary's goodwill could prove costly for Morsi.
Already, the judges are warning that, unless their demands are met, they will not assume their traditional role of supervising a referendum on a new constitution or the parliamentary elections that would follow. Without them, the legitimacy of any vote would be in question.
"This is the highest form of protest," said Nasser Amin, head of the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession. "The judges felt that the constitutional declaration has taken away from them the dearest and most important mandates" — oversight of government decisions.
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