I am in no position to predict whether Morsi is actually set to become a dictator, or anything else about his plans. I don't presume to say what is best for Egypt. However some leftists and liberals appear to believe that Morsi's decrees are themselves some sort of constitutional disaster. This is unreasonable. It rests on notions of legality and legitimacy that are, in the current circumstances, inappropriate. You cannot coherently apply the political principles of a settled state to a state under construction.
One commentator asserts that “Egypt is facing a horrifying coup against legitimacy and the rule of law and a complete assassination of the democratic transition.”
One wonders what country this person is describing. The rule of law does not exist in Egypt. It is flouted at every turn by the police, the army, and indeed the judiciary which protect their abuses. Human Rights Watch reports that "Egyptian police and military officers have arrested and detained over 300 children during protests in Cairo over the past year, in some cases beating or torturing them," courts regularly exonerate those guilty of such abuses. What then is so sacred about the institutions that Morsi clearly intends to remake? And how could he remake them while remaining within the protocols and laws which were created by the old régime and are deployed to protect its remnants? Until these old institutions are swept away, there is no revolution, yet many self-described revolutionaries seem shocked by the very idea of such a thing. They call for the rule of law, and reproach Morsi for failing to end police and army abuses. Yet they complain when he tries to build the power that would permit a cleanup, that would establish a rule of law.
But it is not just that laws are flouted: there is no rule of law because, properly speaking, there is no law. There are the old régime's statutes whose foundation, the old constitution, has been rejected. No new constitution replaces it and there is no uncontestedly recognized legislature to give the old statutes even temporary validity. The low-level, criminal-law components of these statutes are followed for good reason, to ward off anarchy: it wouldn't be a good idea for the authorities to act as if there were no laws against murder and robbery. But the idea that there is existing legal edifice that Morsi has demolished is ludicrous. His decrees do not touch the low-level statutes that keep some sort of order in society. At the same time they cannot violate the rule of some supposed higher-level law that would allocate the powers of the state to various institutions. Any supposed 'law' of that sort has neither legal reality nor immediately practical necessity.
As for legitimacy, Morsi acts according to the closest thing to legitimacy available, an election win. In a state, legitimacy would be conferred by the state's democratic institutions, normally a parliament, and normally established by a constitution recognized as valid. But there is no parliament in session and accepted as legitimate - though if there were, it would certainly endorse Morsi! As for the judiciary, a product of the old régime, it is hard to understand what legitimacy it could claim, since the old régime itself is seen as illegitimate. In other words, this is not the judiciary whose operations span a transition from one democratically validated administration to another. It is a judiciary deeply implicated in assaults on democratic government. Its bogus claims to legitimacy in the actual process should not be mistaken for valid claims within a democratic process.
What then of the claim that Morsi has seized absolute power? This too is wrong-headed. The decree doesn't give Morsi absolute power; because that's not something a decree can do. It would give him absolute power if combined with firm control of the state, but he doesn't have anything of the sort. He can't, because there isn't a state. There is a presidency. There are various institutions, often at odds with the presidency, without a parliament that can sort things out, or a constitution on the basis of which to do the sorting. Morsi's decree is just a bid for the authority to bring the old institutions to heel. Yes, it may be part of some totalitarian plot, but there's no indication of that so far. If he put off the formation of parliament or the drafting of the constitution, that would be another matter.
Can Morsi be trusted when, through his spokesman, he claims the power grab is temporary? Of course not, and it has been many years since Egyptians could be accused of trusting their leaders. Renouncing appeals to the rule of law doesn't mean abandoning a struggle to contain the Islamist trend in Egyptian politics and it does not mean endorsing Morsi, or softening demands for change. But such demands should not invoke bogus legalisms, and those who do the demanding should realize that they are not necessarily the defenders of the Egyptian democracy. The opposition tries to take on the mantle of January 25th, but in a very different context. The thousands who protest would be more plausible guardians of the revolution did their numbers not include and get support from the partisans of the old régime. As Soraya Morayef remarked on twitter, "Worrying that ppl who once said protesters deserve to be shot coz they're dirty vandals now very enthusiastic about them burning down MB HQs."
It's hard to avoid the conclusion that opposing Morsi at this point strengthens the worst elements of the old régime. It's not for me to say whether this is a price worth paying, but surely it should give pause to progressive forces. It's worth remembering that it was not the 25th that sealed the revolution but February 1st, when the streets were filled, not with tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands. Among them were those who became the electoral majority that brought Morsi to power. To all appearances they still support today him today, and it is the secularist minority that oppose him.
The opposition's ideological problem lies primarily in its invocation of law and democracy. There is no law to invoke, and at this stage, democracy manifests itself not in formal institutions but in popular will. Yet the opposition's demands may well run counter to popular will. You can't have everything. Perhaps the opposition is fighting for freedom, not democracy. They're not the same thing.