Egypt's Second Revolution
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|Bernard Banks||December 9th 2012|
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has annulled a decree he issued last month granting him sweeping emergency powers, in a push to defuse political tensions and deadly violence gripping the country.
But a spokesman, speaking late Saturday in Cairo, said a referendum on a controversial draft constitution will still go forward as planned December 15. There has been no formal opposition response to the decree annulment, and it was not immediately clear what impact it will have on opposition protesters who have camped out near the presidential palace since Tuesday.
The two issues -- the decree and the referendum -- are at the heart of anti-Morsi demonstrations that have rocked the country for much of the past two weeks.
An opposition umbrella of liberals, secularists and supporters of the former regime claim the draft constitution was pushed through by President Morsi's Islamist backers, without opposition participation. They have demanded the referendum be canceled and a new draft formulated with opposition input.
Opposition leaders also accuse the president of using the November 22 decree to create what they say is strong-arm rule reminiscent of ousted president Hosni Mubarak. The decree and the draft constitution days later sparked violent protests in Cairo and elsewhere in the country.
The president said earlier this week that at least seven people had been killed and hundreds of others injured in the demonstrations. The latest developments were announced after day-long meetings between key Islamist backers of the president and delegates from opposition groups. However, the main opposition alliance did not attend, prompting some analysts to predict the presidential decree annulment will have little practical effect in the standoff.
The Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Ahram quotes Islamic scholar Mohamed Selim El-Awa, who attended Saturday's meeting, as saying a new drafting panel will be formed and a new constitution written with six months, if voters reject the current draft at the December 15 polls.
Egypt's military encouraged both sides on Saturday to resolve political differences through dialogue. It was the military's first public pronouncements on the crisis since it erupted more than two weeks ago.