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.


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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Last comment may be same as mine. No, I'm moved to write because I do care. Why is there no group writing and supporting an Alternative Constitution that is indeed both recognizing of the strong Islamic culture of Egypt and respectful of the non-Islamic traditions that also enrich the culture and its ability to speak to the wider world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Firstly,Morsi is NOT safeguarding the revolution;he and his Muslim Brotherhood fanatics HIJACKED the revolution.

    Secondly,this is a cheap concession.Morsi has already done all he needs to do to make himself into a dictator.

    It's looking bad,bad,bad for Egyptians.They're in the process of replacing one reactionary,tyrannical regime with another.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.


    UAV Predators.

    Be afraid. Be VERY afraid.

    Particularly if you and yours are in Yemen.

    [autonomous X-47Cs being next]

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    144. Justice
    Your reply to 133 in which you mention "proper Sharia law" makes me wonder. Who decides what is "proper sharia law"? You? Somebody else? What if they decide to change their minds as to what constitutes "proper sharia law"? Everyone will have to obey the new interpretation, because the constitution says so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Who cares? Its just another Middle East basket case country. Leave them to sort it out themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    123: No you are not allowed to spread corruption in the land under Sharia in the same way the western govts lock people by labelling their call to Islam speech as "hate speech".

    133: capital punishment in Islam requires strong evidence and those punishments rarely happens under a proper Sharia law. It is better than spreading shameful acts in a decent society.Far better than bombing the innocent

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    124.Eddy from Waring
    10 Minutes ago
    If it walks like a fascism, talks like it, acts in every other way like it, would anyone like to explain why islamism is not fascism, and why it should not be met by us exactly as fascism has been met by us in the past?

    I fully agree.

    Why then BND (security service) has not moved against terrorist neo-Nazi cells in E. Germany in the last 10 years?

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.


    IF we can be 'religious' (Christian, Muslim, Atheist, all shades), AND be decent trustworthy citizens, THEN who to argue 'against': even on 'number of angels' on proverbial pin-head?

    BUT, given many 'religions', with no rational prop or means to judge (beyond utility in support of 'decency & trustworthiness'), a 'Muslim country' / 'Christian country' risks 'fascist imposition'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    @french toaster

    "slightly more modest for of democracy"? it's hardly an example of success then is it? people have no protection from one another, organized crime's more widespread than it ever was under the dictatorship, rural areas have worse education and health care, human trafficking is booming, churches are routinely burned down and congregations attacked. it can't be called democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    looks like NATO will start arming the rebels and introduce and fly zone!!

    You probably mean NO-fly zones , like the one US one (enforced from Turkish Incirilik) saving thousands of Iraqi Kurds from another Saddam massacre (like his homicidal chemical atacks on Halabja, etc.).

    [not to mention one in Qaddafi's Libya]

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Thank goodness we will NEVER have Sharia law in this country. There is not one civilised country that exists where these medieval rules are successful.
    Egypt had a greedy bully as President and now they seem to have another, is it endemic?

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Mursi thought just because he negotiated the cessation of the war between Israel & Gaza, that in the same week he was embellished with the touch of Midas or at least of Pharaoh's Narmer/King Akhenaton/Ramses II/Nectanebo II. He thought "Yea, I can now do anything" I'm the new Pharaoh. Well he couldn't & he wasn't. He was just someone who wanted Sharia before he wanted dialogue. Now he is a sham.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    unfortunately Egypt is doomed & its innocent revolution is defeated. Egypt's fate awaits either Islamic theocracy or military dictatorship.
    by the way, i'm very secular optimistic muslim Egyptian!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Sorting "fascism"?

    Easier from shareable perception?

    We 'think' with language(s) we inherit, thoughts 'from' possibility, to be judged (utility, rationality, morality), often found in error, ignorance or confusion, never 'absolutely or indubitably' from 'the intervention', or 'in the words of', any 'personified abstraction', however 'lastingly real' they might seem, 'God', 'Devil', etc?

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    All the warning signs were there that once Mubarak had fallen he would be replaced by an Islamist group and so it has. The poor Egyptian people who had enjoyed a society where freedom of worship was protected, where women were free and minorities protected are now faced with a ruling elite who care nothing for other peoples views and where death is the punishment for apostates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.


    "@french toaster 121.

    actually my point was that the democracy is a total shame"

    Many people think that democracy is a total sham, but fewer think it is a total shame. While we are all entitled to our opinions, most prefer democracy to dictatorship, even the relatively modest form of democracy practiced in Indonesia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    #109 In case I'm missing something, what happens under Sharia law if you're found to be a sorcerer? Or you husband decides he'd like a change and accuse you of adultery, or am I mstaken? Is adultery the one where the unfortunate woman is buried to the neck and then stoned?

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Egypt is a Muslim country, so why is everyone surprised when it elects a Muslim government, Islamic democracy is enjoying a Renascence. Times are changing, new powers are arising and the middle east is changing for the better people better get used to it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

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

    Hot property ain't it?

    [just like Bashar Assad's palace in Damascus (to be next) ]

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    I can't think of any 'democratic elections' that have actually been so.


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