Egyptian constitutional vote should be held on schedule: panel
Published Saturday, December 8, 2012 7:37AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, December 8, 2012 11:17PM EST
Egyptian political officials recommend that a referendum on the controversial new constitution take place on schedule, as the country’s president rescinded some of the additional powers he had given himself in the meantime.
The presidential national dialogue committee made the declaration in support of the Dec. 15 referendum after a meeting on Saturday.
Committee members said that President Mohammed Morsi had approved the recommendation, which would see the removal of the articles that granted the president powers to declare emergency laws and shield him from judicial oversight.
Main opposition leaders boycotted the meeting, as critics said the draft constitution disregards the rights of women and Christians, and enshrines a central role for Islamic law.
The deepening political rift continued Saturday as Egypt’s military warned of bleak consequences unless a dialogue is begun to resolve the country’s latest political crisis.
In a statement read on state television, the military said that the nation as a whole will “pay the price” if authorities do not negotiate a solution to the political rift.
Calling it the “best and only” path to resolution, the military called for an open dialogue concerning Egypt’s draft constitution and Morsi’s Nov. 22 issuance of decrees granting him sweeping governance powers.
Anything other than talks, they said, “will force us into a dark tunnel with disastrous consequences; something which we won’t allow.”
Opposition protesters held a sit-in outside the presidential palace and more protests are called for Sunday.
Pro-Morsi Islamists have also held their own protests to counter the anti-government sentiment.
The military governed the country following the toppling of former leader Hosni Mubarak in 2010 until Morsi was elected in Egypt’s first free election.
In the statement, the military said it “realizes its national responsibility in protecting the nation’s higher interests”.
Since the latest protests began in late November, at least six civilians have died, and several of offices of Morsi’s Islamist Muslim Brotherhood party have been set on fire.
In an attempt to quell tensions, Morsi announced a referendum on the constitution to take place next week and said the decrees are a temporary measure to transition the government to democracy.
Oppositional and pro-government protesters have clashed at various protests, including outside the presidential palace.
Troops have been deployed to the area around the palace, and protesters and tanks remained stationed outside on Saturday.
In an interview with CTV from Cairo, CNN’s Reza Sayah said there is little to indicate that the military is “taking sides” so far.
“There’s no indication that the military has injected itself into this conflict,” Sayah said. “For the most part, they’ve remained on the sideline with the exception of the Republican Guard that brought out several tanks and armoured personnel carriers in front of the palace in an effort to calm things down over there.”
Morsi attended a meeting Saturday with mostly Islamic delegates. One liberal politician, Ayman Nour, was also said to be at the meeting.
Despite the talks, Sayah said no one is really “holding their breath” for a positive outcome at this stage, given that opposition leaders rejected Morsi’s call for open dialogue Thursday.
In what’s been viewed as a concession, the president said he would be willing to postpone the referendum, but only if he was guaranteed the move would not be challenged by the court, Sayah reported.