Egypt crisis: Morsi offers concession in decree annulment

 

The BBC's Shaimaa Khalil: "This is a major sign of compromise on the president's part"

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has offered a concession to opponents by annulling a decree that hugely expanded his powers and sparked angry protests.

But a controversial referendum on a draft constitution planned for 15 December will still go ahead.

Halting the referendum is a key demand of the opposition and some have already dismissed Mr Morsi's latest move.

The president's critics accuse him of acting like a dictator, but he says he is safeguarding the revolution.

Ahmed Said, head of the Free Egyptians Party, a leading member of the main opposition National Salvation Front coalition, said Mr Morsi's latest announcement was "shocking" as it did not halt the referendum.

The National Salvation Front will meet on Sunday before issuing a formal response.

'Duping the people'

Mr Morsi's decree of 22 November stripped the judiciary of any right to challenge his decisions and triggered violent protests on the streets of Cairo.

"The constitutional decree is annulled from this moment," said Selim al-Awa, an Islamist politician acting as a spokesman for a meeting Mr Morsi held with political and public figures on Saturday.

Analysis

This is a major sign of compromise on the president's part and also an unexpected move.

In his speech last Thursday President Morsi showed no willingness to give up the absolute powers he granted himself and which gained him titles like "dictator" and "Pharaoh".

But in a dramatic U-turn he has decided to give those powers up. This is good news for Egypt's judiciary, which felt particularly insulted by the president's decree because it basically deemed them powerless.

As for the opposition, it seems they've only won half the battle. The president did not budge on the other sticking point: the referendum on the controversial draft constitution. Vice-President Mahmoud Mekki said that a vote on the charter would go ahead as planned in a week's time.

He said if the draft constitution was rejected by a popular vote then elections would be held for a new constituent assembly.

The reaction of the main opposition National Salvation Front will now be key to how events shape politically. Since the announcement of the decree Egypt has been deeply polarised and has plunged into a new wave of violence. It remains to be seen whether this annulment will defuse tension on Egypt's volatile streets.

But he said the referendum on a new constitution would go ahead because it was not legally possible for the president to postpone it.

The meeting had been boycotted by the main opposition leaders who had earlier called for their supporters to step up their protests.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says Mr Morsi's move is the first big sign of compromise but that it is unlikely to end the current crisis.

Our correspondent says the tanks, barbed wire and concrete blocks around the presidential palace show what great pressure Mr Morsi is under.

Ahmed Said told Reuters news agency that Mr Morsi's latest move would "make things a lot worse".

"I cannot imagine that after all this they want to pass a constitution that does not represent all Egyptians," he said.

Another opposition group, the April 6 Youth Movement, said the announcement was "a political manoeuvre aimed at duping the people".

Some opposition protesters on the streets were also unimpressed by the decree annulment.

One, Amr al-Libiy, told Reuters: "He didn't change his decision or the constitutional decree until people were killed... so we will not leave until he leaves."

However, another told Associated Press he hoped the move would "end the bloodshed", saying: "We called for something and now it's been achieved."

Pro-Morsi protesters have also continued to demonstrate - angry at what they say is media bias against the president.

Set on fire

Although the decree has been annulled, some decisions taken under it still stand.

The general prosecutor, who was dismissed, will not be reinstated, and the retrial of the former regime officials will go ahead.

Earlier, Egypt's powerful military warned it would not allow Egypt to spiral out of control and called for talks to resolve the conflict.

"Anything other than that (dialogue) will force us into a dark tunnel with disastrous consequences; something that we won't allow," it said.

The president's supporters say the judiciary is made up of reactionary figures from the old regime of strongman Hosni Mubarak.

But his opponents have mounted almost continuous protests since the decree was passed.

They are also furious over the drafting of the new constitution because they see the process as being dominated by Mr Morsi's Islamist allies.

Several people have been killed in the recent spate of anti-government protests, and the presidential palace has come under attack.

The Cairo headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement to which Mr Morsi belongs, were set on fire.

 

More on This Story

Egypt in transition

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 196.

    Glad to see the moderate and secular Egyptians keep the spirit of Arab Spring going.

    It is unrealistic to expect Egypt not to be a Muslim country, but the key question is what type of Muslim country it will become. The West gambled in helping Egypt get rid of Mubarak, hoping Egypt will become a more democratic country. It will take time to see how Egypt will eventually develop into.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 186.

    The Egyptians have demonstrated in very eloquent terms, what they expect from the people they elect to lead them. The president made a tactical error giving himself dictatorial powers with the memories of the "Mubarak years" still fresh.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 170.

    Egypt for me, with the pyramids is a wonder of the world. Yes, some people are christian,aetheist, islamist or follow other religions in egypt- but you are all egyptians and humans. Your country should be a world leader, an inspiration. Now form a free and equal constitution and make egyptians and the world proud of your amazing country.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 162.

    Last year I met a 40 year old Egyptian lady engineer at a conference. She beamed as she described the overthrow of Mubarak, her time in the tear gas at Tahrir Square and so full of pride that her eldest son fought with the thugs trying to suppress the people's cause and was shot but survived. She was devout muslim but believed in the freedoms we have in the West. She must be horrified now....

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 151.

    The problem is that for any thinking person the Morsi decree rendered the whole original revolution null and void in a single swoop. Whatever his intentions, at worst he is saying he wants to become a replacement dictator, or at best he's saying the country cannot be controlled by democratic means for historical reasons. There is now no way back for Morsi, either he seizes power, or he goes :-(

 
 

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