Morsi Rescinds Decree but Egyptian Riots Continue

Today, President Mohammed Morsi annulled the decree that gave him sweeping and incontestable powers, in which he denied the judicial system the power to overturn any of his decrees.  He insists that the referendum on the draft constitution will go ahead as scheduled. Morsi was fast losing control of the streets, as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators poured out to protest his sudden grasp of total power, contrasting dramatically with his supposed support of the democratic process by which he was elected. 

No doubt the pressure of the growing riots in Cairo and throughout Egypt influenced Morsi’s decision to walk back his decision to seize unlimited power, bringing back bad memories of Hosni Mubarak’s rule that was overthrown in February 2011, and led to Morsi’s own election.

This was, we believe, a wise decision and must have been a difficult one for him. The idea, presumably, was to give the people a few days to cool down, but we doubt that this will happen. Although they will have the opportunity to express their opinion at the referendum on the draft constitution, scheduled for the 15th, this is no longer good enough.

Morsi has already compromised the democratic process to such an extent that the people no longer trust him. First, he gave himself the sweeping powers that eliminated any judicial review. Then, in the face of massive (though largely peaceful) rioting, he recanted his decree and his unlimited power. But even while doing so, the military flew F-16 planes (supplied by the US) low over the crowds, buzzing them in a show of power and a warning that the power still resides in the government.

If the referendum is held held next Saturday, as Morsi has said it would be, and Morsi loses, which is to say that the majority of people reject the Islamist draft of the new constitution, Morsi will have some difficult choices before him – either to push forward with his plan to impose Shariah law on Egypt, despite the outcome of the vote – or face an angry return of a rising popular resistance to his presidency and even more dangerous rioting in the streets of Cairo.

Realistically, the chances of the referendum failing is small. The Muslim Brotherhood is best at organizing its religious followers to mobilize and show up when they are needed. Those who oppose the Shariah laws that the draft constitution outlines appear to be in the minority, but the imposition of Shariah law in Egypt will marginalize more than half the population: all women and all minorities, including the 10% of the population who are Coptic Christians. This community lived and thrived in Egypt long before the Muslims existed, and are now threatened in every aspect of their daily lives. 100,000 have already left Egypt since the ‘Arab Spring’ toppled the Mubarak regime and made their daily lives hell.

The following article appeared in al Jazeera (English) which has supported the Muslim Brotherhood with which Morsi is associated. Nevertheless, the report is worth reading. This article is followed by a more balanced article that appeared in NOW Lebanon.

——  Editor

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A referendum on a draft constitution would however still go ahead as planned on December 15, said Selim al-Awa, an Islamist politician acting as spokesman of a meeting Morsi held earlier on Saturday with other political leaders.

“The constitutional decree is annulled from this moment,” al-Awa said.

The decree and the referendum were at the heart of anti-Morsi protests that have rocked Egypt in the past two weeks. At least seven people have been killed in the unrest, as demonstrators opposing and supporting Morsi clashed near the presidential palace.

He said that constitutionally, Morsi was unable to change the date for the referendum.

But he added that, if the draft constitution were rejected, a new one would be drawn up by officials elected by the people, rather than ones chosen by  parliament as for the current text.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said the withdrawal of the November 22 decree was a “huge development”, but “for the opposition, this may only go half way in terms of their demands being met.”

“The big question now is how the opposition will respond.”

‘Meaningless’ move

Khaled Dawood, the spokesman for the National Salvation Front, one of largest opposition parties in Egypt, said annulling the decree was “relatively meaningless”.

“The key issue of securing the process of adapting of the constitution is done,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Unfortunately I don’t think the president is leaving us any other option than to escalate our opposition.

Asked whether the opposition’s goal was to unseat Morsi, Dawood said: “This is definitely not in our agenda at all. Our agenda is basically limited to having a new draft constitution that everybody is satisfied about before going to a referendum.

“We respect he was elected with 51.7 per cent of the vote, but 48 per cent did not vote for him. That means that he has to compromise, he has to build consensus.”

One of the groups involved in the struggle to topple former President Hosni Mubarak, the April 6 Youth Movement, swiftly dismissed the announcements as “a political manoeuvre aimed at duping the people”.

It called for the protests to continue to stop “the referendum on the constitution of the Muslim Brotherhood”, a reference to the party backing Morsi.

Military warning

The country’s main opposition parties say the draft constitution is biased and have rejected Morsi’s call for dialogue.

The draft constitution has been criticised for its potential to weaken human rights and the rights of women, and out of fear it would usher in Islamic interpretation of laws.

Earlier on Saturday, Egypt’s military gave warning on “disastrous consequences” if the political crisis gripping the country was not resolved through dialogue.

“The path of dialogue is the best and only way to reach agreement and achieve the interests of the nation and its citizens,” the military said in a statement.

“The opposite of that will take us into a dark tunnel with disastrous results.”

The military statement was issued as demonstrators fenced off an administrative building in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

There were none of the large-scale demonstrations that had taken place on previous nights, but the presidential palace remained ringed by tanks and troops, as it has been since Thursday, a day after the deadly clashes.

Read the original article in al Jazeera here.

MORE from the NOW Lebanon:

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi backed down Saturday in a political crisis marked by weeks of street protests, after the powerful army gave an ultimatum to him and the opposition to hold talks.

But the initial signs were that his concession would not satisfy an increasingly fierce opposition.

The Islamist leader annulled a controversial decree issued last month that put his decisions beyond judicial review – a move denounced as a dictatorial “power grab” by the opposition, but one which Morsi had defended as necessary to protect reforms.

“The constitutional decree is annulled from this moment,” Selim al-Awa, an Islamist politician and adviser to Morsi, told a news conference after a meeting between the president and other political leaders.

But Awa said an equally contentious referendum on a new constitution would go ahead as planned on December 15. The president was legally bound under the constitution to maintain that date and had no choice, he said.

Awa added that if the draft constitution were rejected, a new one would be drawn up by officials elected by the people, rather than ones chosen by parliament as for the current text.

The draft constitution has been criticized for its potential to weaken human rights and the rights of women, and out of fear it would usher in Islamic interpretation of laws.

The two issues – the decree and the referendum – were at the heart of the anti-Morsi protests that turned violent last week, with clashes on Wednesday that killed seven people and wounded hundreds.

The opposition refused Morsi’s offer of dialogue as long as those two decisions stood.

But on Saturday the powerful military, in its first statement since the crisis began, told both sides to talk. Otherwise, it warned, Egypt would descend “into a dark tunnel with disastrous results – and that is something we will not allow.”

The army said it “stands always with the great Egyptian people and insists on its unity” but it was its duty to protect state institutions. It urged a solution based on “democratic rules.”

Morsi’s concession on the decree appeared to be a gesture to open the way for the talks to happen. But it remained to be seen if the opposition would remain intransigent over the referendum.

One of the groups involved in the struggle to topple Mubarak, the April 6 Youth Movement, swiftly dismissed the announcements as “a political manoeuver aimed at duping the people”.

It called for the protests to continue to stop “the referendum on the constitution of the Muslim Brotherhood”, a reference to the party backing Morsi.

On Saturday there were none of the large-scale demonstrations seen on previous nights. But the presidential palace remained ringed by tanks and troops, as it has been since the day after the deadly clashes.

In Cairo’s Tahrir Square, a focal point for hardcore protesters, news of the annulled decree sparked no celebrations. “This will change nothing,” said one anti-Morsi activist, Mohamed Shakir, 50.

“Even if they offered us honey, it would not be enough,” agreed another, Hisham Ezzat.

Ahmad Abdallah, there with his wife and two children, said he could no longer accept Morsi and nothing less than the disappearance of the Muslim Brotherhood would satisfy him.

“The Brotherhood exists around the world, they have gone to other countries and split the people. Before the split, Morsi had a chance but now it’s too late,” he said.

The main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front, has said it is ready for “serious and objective dialogue” as soon as Morsi met its demands to scrap both the decree and the referendum.

It had rebuffed his offer on Thursday to open talks because he failed to give way on those two points.

On Saturday the Front spoke of the possibility of organizing a general strike in protest.

However Islamist groups supportive of Morsi have categorically refused to consider even delaying the constitutional referendum.

In recent days, the mass protests had taken to demanding that Morsi step down, in scenes reminiscent of those during the early 2011 uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak.

Wayne White, a policy expert with Washington’s Middle East Policy Council, told AFP the military’s involvement in the crisis was key.

If the army’s leaders saw enough opposition to Morsi, they would “inform him that they cannot continue to keep the peace and that he should make serious concessions to the opposition”, he said.

-AFP

Read the original article and more here:

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