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.


More on This Story

Egypt in transition


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  • Comment number 189.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    To understand Egyptians Islam and Islamic power you need to be from the region or spent a lot of time travelling and living there. It's hard to explain to this post the mentality and ideals of people..except to say that what is happening now is natural for the culture and way of has little value and neither does the opinions of the west

  • Comment number 187.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    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

    Comment number 185.

    I'm not sure if its the religion(s)/tribes or the mentality of men in the ME ...but it is one sick bunch & area of the world. Muslim Brotherhood should have been a its very name it left out half the population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Is anyone surprised that an islamist would be a dictator? Look at Turkey which has regressed under Erdogan.

    Egypt was better off under Murburak, the free world must support the secularists. Islamists can not be allowed to rule people it would take us back to the dark ages

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    The west assumes that politics & politicians in the ME are bound by duty justice equality freedom & law. Yet time after time we see that is not the case.

    Egypt is a strategic pawn for the US as it holds a key position between Israel, Palestine & West. Publicly The west may support Egypt but privately they realize that whilst democracy is in Egypt..politics is not democratic

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    Re $174
    "The situation in Egypt is a classic example of the "Permanent Revolution" that Trotsky argued for."

    Expect Trotsky was murdered in Mexico (witn an ice-pick) aby a GRU agent sent by Stalin.

    That's what typically happens when Comies quarrel among themselves who's more Commie and who should be in charge of "the equal".

    [pigs always being more equal than others, though.]

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    I don't trust him at all

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    Nice to see a politician take one on the chin and act in accordance to the wishes of the public. Apparently giving the public the power they actually have by right... Well done Morsi.
    I hope one day our British Dictators can take a leaf out your book!

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    It appears 172. has good information from somewhere, Read what they wrote; ' Whether 172 has just picked their own thoughts or whether they are better informed than others seems to be spot on! Serves the U.S.A. right for trying to manipulate the crisis for it's own benefit! AGAIN!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    In all this there is an essential flaw in US strategic foreign policy thinking and it is the absurd notion among american lawmakers that the US can remake the world especially middle east in its own political and cultural image and that other nations and peoples must behave according to american ideals often flawed. This US exceptionalist thinking is nutured by Israel for its own nefarious ends.

  • Comment number 177.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Reality, there is no political change of ideology, it’s all about property, money and theft, when we will realise we have no need at all to be governed! Religion, patriarchy, capitalism all poison.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    The Islamists are threatening in the media that if we stall the referendum on the constitution or overthrow Mursi then they will declare an Islamic revolution! They tell us we agreed to "play democracy" but you are now seeking to derail the democratic process in Egypt! They are also inciting against the Coptic church saying that they are responsible for the anti-Mursi protests! Disgusting!

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    The situation in Egypt is a classic example of the "Permanent Revolution" that Trotsky argued for.
    Here we see an elected government that are in fact afraid of it's people rather than the other way round.Tahrir Square is the "Peoples Parliament".

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    " hope we've learned our lesson & will stop meddling in foreign sovereign nations' domestic affairs. For their & our sakes."

    Homicidal USSR in whose affairs we've meddled is no more. Just like Yuogloslavia.

    Just like homicidal Saddam's Iraq or Qaddafi's Libya.

    I wish European "fellow travellers' had guts to prevent homicides in Cambodia, Rwanda and Tibet.. Except they haven't had them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    It seems far more than coincidental that Morsi made a grab for absolute power after he had helped broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. It seems the US at the time viewed Morsi as essential to US interests with regard to Israel and decided to back him as a 'good guy' a position of which Morsi took immediate advantage meaning a US green light to do as he wanted without regard to law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    It will be interesting to see whether the plebiscite will give his new constitution democratic approvel - he was after all elected democratically! Then the age-old issue of the rights of the minority (however willing to take direct action they may be) arises. However if Egypt is brewing 'Saudi SARS' as the next pandemic this will soon be er academic!

  • rate this

    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.


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