Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Egypt's Morsi backs off decree, but fails to assuage protesters (+video)

President Mohamed Morsi held firm in rejecting what had been a key demand of the opposition: delaying a referendum scheduled for Saturday on a new constitution.

By Kristen Chick,?Correspondent / December 9, 2012

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is seen during a photo opportunity in his office at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday. Egypt's military said Saturday that serious dialogue is the "best and only" way to overcome the nation's deepening conflict over a disputed draft constitution hurriedly adopted by Islamist allies of President Mohammed Morsi, and recent decrees granting himself near-absolute powers.

Maya Alleruzzo/AP


Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi last night rescinded his recent decision removing checks on his power and making the constitution-writing process immune from judicial review, a move that brought thousands of people into the street against him across Egypt.?

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But he held firm in rejecting what had been a key demand of the opposition: delaying a referendum scheduled for Saturday on a new constitution that was hurriedly completed less than two weeks ago by a committee that most secular and Christian members had resigned from in protest.?

Though the main coalition of opposition groups that united against Morsi's recent actions has yet to announce its response to the decree, which came late last night, some members of the opposition and protesters say the move does not satisfy them.?

"Morsi used the powers of the decree to push his constitution on us, so what does it mean if he cancels it now? It means nothing. He achieved his goal already," says Haitham Mohamed, who has spent much of the last week protesting the president's moves. He noted that if the referendum approves the constitution, Morsi's previous decree, and the powers that came with it, would have been invalidated soon anyway. "We demanded that he delay the referendum, and for a constitution we agree on. He ignored this demand."

The president issued the new constitutional decree after an all-day discussion among various political figures he called a national dialogue, though it was boycotted by the main opposition coalition. The referendum will go on as planned, according to the text of the new constitutional decree. The document also stipulates that if the majority votes against the new constitution, a new constituent assembly will be created through direct elections.

Opposition members had previously criticized the referendum because a "no" vote would leave Morsi with sweeping powers. The new document canceled Morsi's previous decree making his own actions immune from judicial review, granting himself wide powers to "protect the revolution," and protecting the constituent assembly from dissolution by the judiciary. But it does say that constitutional decrees such as this one are immune to judicial challenges.

Fresh protests planned

Protesters prepared to march to the presidential palace today to voice their rejection of the president's new move. The streets around the palace turned into a battle zone this week when the president's supporters attacked the protesters who had gathered there. Seven people were killed in the street clashes.?

Source: http://rss.csmonitor.com/~r/feeds/csm/~3/2ENslhRDMnI/Egypt-s-Morsi-backs-off-decree-but-fails-to-assuage-protesters-video

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