|Graffiti criticising Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi|
is painted on the outer walls of Egypt’s Presidential Palace,.
Photograph: Ed Giles/Getty Images
Egypt: Mohamed Morsi Cancels Decree That Gave Him Sweeping Powers
2012 DECEMBER 9
Posted by Stephen Cook
Stephen: In this light-filled week, the Light is assisting with incredible ‘containment’ backflips... ensuring we all stay out of ‘dark tunnels’.
Annulment of measure that sparked days of protests comes after military says constitution crisis could drag Egypt into ‘dark tunnel’
By Abdel-Rahman Hussein in Cairo, The Observer – December 9, 2012
The Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, has scrapped a decree that had generated widespread unrest by awarding him near-absolute powers. But he insisted a referendum on a new constitution would go ahead as planned this week.
The announcement, which is unlikely to placate Morsi’s opponents, came after Egypt’s military warned that failure to resolve a crisis over the drafting of the constitution would result in “disastrous consequences” that could drag the country into a “dark tunnel”.
Selim al-Awa, an official who attended a “national dialogue meeting” called by Morsi at the presidential palace in Cairo but boycotted by his opponents, said the Islamist-dominated discussion recommended removing articles that granted the president powers to declare emergency laws and shield him from judicial oversight.
Earlier Egypt’s military had issued a statement saying: “Dialogue is the best and only way to reach consensus. The opposite of that will bring us to a dark tunnel that will result in catastrophe and that is something we will not allow.” Failing to reach a consensus was “in the interest of neither side. The nation as a whole will pay the price,” it added.
State radio and television interrupted programmes to read the military statement. A Muslim Brotherhood official welcomed the army’s “balanced” line. Former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, now an opposition leader, said that the army was reacting to an “enormously dangerous” crisis.
The statement came ahead of a new law to be issued by Morsi that will grant the armed forces the power to arrest civilians, alongside police forces, until a constitution is passed. The law makes the army responsible for the protection of state premises and maintaining security, and allows it the use of force if necessary to carry out these duties.
The worst crisis since the revolution almost two years ago erupted after Morsi granted himself sweeping powers last month. Protests have also focused on a the new constitution, which opposition critics have condemned as illiberal. Morsi has been forced to retreat behind barbed wire, tanks and armed Revolutionary Guards now ringing his compound in the capital.
Morsi’s supporters forcibly dispersed a sit-in at the presidential palace in the middle of last week, triggering an escalation in violence that has so far resulted in seven deaths and around 700 injuries. Clashes have spread to other Egyptian cities. There have been increasing calls from protesters for Morsi to step down.
The main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, refused to take part in the dialogue meeting, instead calling for the postponement of a referendum on the draft constitution, which is scheduled for 15 December. National Salvation Front member George Ishak told the Observer that the draft constitution had been “bloodied”.
On Friday, Mohammed ElBaradei, co-ordinator of the National Salvation Front, called on protesters to demonstrate peacefully. Activists broke through barbed-wire barricades around the palace on Friday evening. Some spray-painted “Down with Morsi” on tanks; others scrawled the word “leave” in red letters across posters of Morsi’s face.
“We are no longer calling for scrapping the decree and delaying the referendum,” Samir Fayez, a Christian protester, said. “We have one demand in five letters: leave.”
Nearby, Mohamed Hassan, a Morsi supporter, suggested that the Muslim Brotherhood and its ultra-orthodox Salafi Islamist allies could easily overwhelm their foes if they chose to mobilise their base.
“The Brotherhood and Salafis by themselves are few, but they have millions of supporters who are at home and haven’t taken it to the streets yet,” said the 40-year-old engineer.
Most of the protesters had dispersed from the palace by Saturday, although a modest presence remained. TV footage showed the military setting up a wall of cement blocks around the palace.
The new law granting the military powers to arrest civilians and the use of force if necessary was passed by the supreme council of the armed forces, the military junta that governed Egypt during the transitional period before Morsi assumed power, six months ago. It was later overturned by Egypt’s supreme administrative court.
There had been severe opposition at that time to the law by both the Muslim Brotherhood and other political forces.