Egypt's Morsi scraps decree
EGYPT'S president has scrapped a decree that gave him extra powers and ignited violent protests but his incensed opponents said yesterday that he had deepened the conflict by pressing on with a vote on a constitution shaped by Islamists.
President Mohamed Morsi and his Islamist partisans have insisted that the referendum go ahead on December 15 to seal a democratic transition that began when a popular uprising felled Hosni Mubarak 22 months ago after three decades of one-man rule.
The retraction of Morsi's November 22 decree, announced around midnight after a "national dialogue" boycotted by almost all the president's opponents, has failed to calm a war of words.
Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, a technocrat with Islamist leanings, said the referendum was the best test of opinion.
"The people are the makers of the future as long as they have the freedom to resort to the ballot box in a democratic, free and fair vote," he said in a cabinet statement.
But opposition factions, uncertain of their ability to vote down the constitution against the Islamists' organisational muscle, want the document redrafted before a vote.
Ahmed Said, a liberal leader of the main opposition National Salvation Front, said Morsi's withdrawal of his November 22 decree had not annulled its consequences, describing the race to a referendum as "shocking" and an "act of war" against Egyptians.
The front promised a formal response later yesterday.
Egypt was tipped into turmoil after Morsi grabbed the power to stop any court action that, in his opinion, would hinder the transition. An assembly led by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists then swiftly approved the constitution it had spent six months drafting.
Liberals, leftists, Christians and others had already quit the assembly in dismay, saying their voices were being ignored.
The April 6 movement, prominent in the anti-Mubarak revolt, derided the result of Saturday's talks as "manipulation and a continuation of deception in the name of law and legitimacy".
A leftist group led by defeated presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahy demanded that the referendum be deferred until a consensus could be reached on a new draft, saying there could be "no dialogue while blood is being spilled in the streets".
But Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan said scrapping Morsi's decree had removed cause for controversy.
"We ask others to announce their acceptance of the referendum result," he said on the group's Facebook page, asking whether the opposition would accept "the basics of democracy".
More protests were planned near Morsi's palace, despite tanks, barbed wire and other barriers installed last week after clashes between Islamists and their rivals killed seven people.
"A constitution without consensus can't go to a referendum," said Hermes Fawzi, 28, a protester outside the palace. "It's not logical that just one part of society makes the constitution."
Egypt is torn between Islamists and their rivals, who fear religious conservatives want to squeeze out all other voices. - Reuters