Cairo : In a dramatic U-turn, Egypt’s Islamist President Muhammed Morsi today annulled a controversial decree that had granted him Pharaoh-like powers, even as he rejected opposition demands to delay next week’s referendum on a new constitution.
In a major sign of compromise, Morsi revoked the controversial decree that had granted him sweeping powers, but decided that the referendum on the draft constitution would go ahead as planned on December 15.
President Morsi’s dramatic U-turn came after a “national dialogue” held between political leaders which continued after late midnight. The constitutional referendum will be held on its previously specified date of December 15 and the constitutional declaration issued by President Morsi on November 22 has been largely cancelled, Mohamed Selim al-Awa, an Islamist politician and adviser to Morsi, announced on Sunday. The new constitutional declaration however will be immune from judicial appeal. According to the new declaration, if a majority of Egyptians vote against the draft constitution, then a new Constituent Assembly will be elected in three months, and will have six months to draft a new one.
The cancellation of the decree, which put Morsi’s decisions above judicial oversight, was not retroactive, meaning any decisions he made since its announcement still stand.
The present political turmoil began after President Morsi granted himself absolute powers through the November 22 decree that had put his decisions beyond judicial review, a move which gained him titles like “dictator” and “Pharaoh”.
The new declaration also reaffirmed the retrial of figures responsible for protester deaths in the uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak and called for investigations into the deaths of those who were killed in last week’s clashes in front of the presidential palace.
Egypt’s Constituent Assembly on November 30 in a marathon session approved a draft constitution imposing Islamic values, a move opposed by Liberals as an attempt to restrict freedom of speech and religion in the country.
According to Egyptian state TV, the articles passed, stipulated that Islam is the religion of the state, and the principles of Sharia, or Islamic law, are the “main source of legislation”.
Mursi then decided to hold a referendum on the controversial draft constitution on December 15, a move that sparked further outrage in the deeply polarised country. Khaled Dawood, the spokesman for the National Salvation Front, the aggregation of opposition parties in Egypt, said annulling the decree was “relatively meaningless”. “The key issue of securing the process of adapting of the constitution is done,” he was quoted by Al-Jazeera as saying. — PTI