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.

 

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  • rate this
    +32

    Comment number 18.

    While this can only be seen as progress it still does not address the greatest underlying issue; the treatment of minorities, the more liberal middle class and women.

    I was shocked to see mobs of 50+ thugs paid to sexually assault women on last friday's Unreported World. If you get the chance, watch it on 4oD. The veiws men have on women's rights are chilling

  • rate this
    +24

    Comment number 17.

    The ordinary Egyptians need to be very very careful on whom gets final power.Get the wrong party in power and all woman will be forced to wear veils over their faces and not be taught in schools.The ordinary person wants freedom but their are factions who want only religious domination and everybody to live the way that they decree.When you look back in history the Muslims had tolerance-not now.

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 21.

    Clearly inexperienced Mr Morsi ill-prepared to deal with a large population of educated young people who know more than he does about the outside world.Eg has richly diverse population;the rights of all minorities,including Christians,women,gays&non-believers must be protected to a level that makes them comfortable (i.e. not to MuslimB standards).FGM must remain illegal&Prosecuted.Vote NO 15 Dec.

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 24.

    The rise of islamic facism is probably the biggest threat the world faces right now,we should be backing the egyptians who want to curb the ambitions of Morsi rather than supporting the terrorists in syria who oppose the secular Assad.The BBC's and western goverments policy of backing the islamists could have dire consequences for the middle east and the world

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 25.

    Egypt is a country with clearly a long journey ahead. The Arab spring was not the start and end of change - just a first step. Mr Morsi clearly hasn't read Animal Farm by George Orwell. Throw out the old and replace it with the same old thing - nothing much has changed. Which is why Egyptian youth need to keep pushing for change for as long as it takes. Wake up Morsi, it's 2012!

 

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