Cairo: Egypt’s opposition leaders on Sunday said President Mohammad Mursi’s annulment of a controversial decree that expanded his powers, was a manoeuvre and an inadequate concession to defuse a violent crisis in the country.
Mursi late Saturday cancelled the November 22 decree, but kept a December 15 referendum on a draft constitution condemned by the opposition as flawed.
“We have broken the barrier of fear. We will bring down the [draft] constitution that aborts our rights and freedoms,” the Nobel laureate Mohammad Al Baradei, wrote in a tweet in his first comment on Mursi’s move.
Al Baradei and other opposition leaders had shunned talks held on Saturday between Mursi and several low-profile politicians and public figures.
Al Baradei leads the National Salvation Front, which also includes former presidential contenders Amr Mousa and Hamdeen Sabahi.
They have repeatedly demanded the draft constitution be suspended and a new assembly be instituted to “reflect diversity of Egyptian society”.
In a new constitutional declaration issued by Mursi late Saturday, his decisions are no longer above judicial oversight.
If the voters rejected the draft charter, a new election will be held in three months for a new 100-member assembly to write a new constitution. The document will be readied six months after the panel is elected.
The April 6, a movement that played a major role in the uprising against Hosni Mubarak almost two years ago, dismissed Mursi’s latest move as “misleading and procrastinating”.
“The drama of deception continues in the name law and legitimacy,” said Mahmoud Afifi, the group’s spokesman.
Thousands of protesters on Sunday continued camping in Tahrir Square and outside the presidential palace in eastern Cairo against what they see as Mursi’s dictatorial practices.
“We reject this prevarication. We will work for the cancellation of the draft constitution and the creation of a new balanced constituent assembly,” said Khalid Ali, a former presidential candidate.
Mursi’s deputy Mahmoud Mekki has said that constitutionally the president does not have the right to delay the date of the constitution referendum set for December 15.
However, observers say a key aim of Mursi now is to rush the draft charter through the referendum, making use of the ability of his powerful group, the Muslim Brotherhood, to mobilise the public.
“The double aim of Mursi’s new constitutional declaration is to expedite voting on the constitution and secure the judges’ supervision of the referendum,” said Nour Farhat, a legal expert.
Under Saturday’s declaration, Mursi’s decisions are no longer immune to judicial review. The referendum would be illegal without judicial supervision, say legal experts.
The Islamist president’s U-turn came hours after the army warned that it would not allow the dispute, triggered by Mursi’s measures, to turn into a “confrontation” that the military said would lead to “catastrophic results”.