New York Times News Service

CAIRO — President Mohammed Morsi speaks darkly of imminent threats from a conspiracy of unnamed foreign enemies and corrupt businessmen. He vows to uncover counterrevolutionaries hiding under judicial robes. His advisers charge that loyalists of the former dictator have infiltrated the opposition, saying it would gladly sacrifice democracy to defeat the Islamists.

In a one-week blitz, Morsi and his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood cast aside two years of cautious pragmatism in an effort to seize full control of Egypt’s political transition. Morsi decreed himself above the reach of the courts until completion of a new constitution, trying to pre-empt an expected ruling today that would dissolve the constitutional assembly. He went around the laws to install his own public prosecutor in a stated drive to go after those who abused power or reaped profits under the old government. And his Islamist allies in the constitutional assembly rammed through a charter over the objections of their secular opposition and the Coptic Christian Church.

On Saturday, Morsi pushed forward with plans for the new constitution, setting a national referendum on it for Dec. 15.

“I pray to God and hope that it will be a new day of democracy in Egypt,” he said in a nationally televised speech, calling for a “national dialogue.”

But his recent tone and actions reminded critics of the autocratic ways of his predecessor and have aroused a new debate here about his commitment to democracy.

Morsi’s advisers call the tactics a regrettable but necessary response to genuine threats to their political transition.