Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi revoked a Nov. 22 decree that had increased his powers and Vice President Mahmoud Mekki said the army has been mobilized to maintain security.
The reversal of the November decree, which had exempted Mursi’s decisions from judicial review, was announced by Mohamed Salim El Awa, a former presidential candidate, who read a televised statement from a legal committee empaneled to review Mursi’s action last month.
A Dec. 15 referendum on a new constitution won’t be postponed, according to the televised statement. If the document is rejected, a new constitutional committee would be seated within three months to draft a new constitution, according to the statement.
Mekki announced the army’s mobilization in a statement televised by Al Arabiya. Egypt’s Cabinet approved a measure allowing the army to use the force “necessary to perform their duty” to maintain security and protect vital state institutions, Cairo-based Al Ahram newspaper said yesterday.
Opposition supporters yesterday began a third week of rallies outside the presidential palace to protest both a draft constitution, which they say is biased toward Mursi’s Islamist supporters, and the Nov. 22 decree that gives him powers unchecked by the courts.
Mursi is “seeking to re-establish dictatorial rule in Egypt” by using the military to promote a political stance, Gamal Eid, a lawyer who heads the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, said by telephone from Cairo. The activist likened Mursi to former President Hosni Mubarak, whose February 2011 ouster was the result of an uprising that included the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Mursi was a member before assuming the presidency.
“The decree gives the army the right to arrest civilians, a right previously reserved for police officers alone, and that means that Mursi is seeking the army’s help against his opponents, which means more blood and more violence,” Eid said.
Politicians were among public figures arriving at the palace yesterday for talks the government said were an attempt to resolve the crisis, according to state television. Opposition groups followed through on a pledge to boycott the gathering.
The National Salvation Front, the al-Wafd Party and the April 6 youth movement had rejected the president’s Dec. 6 offer of “comprehensive” discussions about the proposed constitution. Secular activists and other opposition groups say the constitution was hijacked by Islamists, and are demanding that Mursi abandon the referendum.
Protests against Mursi and escalating violence threaten to derail Egypt’s efforts to establish a democracy after last year’s uprising and to revive an economy that has stalled as the upheaval has kept investors and tourists away.
Mekki had said yesterday that Mursi may be willing to delay the public vote on the constitution. The government delayed yesterday’s scheduled start of voting in the referendum by expatriate Egyptians to Dec. 12, according to Ahram Online.
Mohamed Badie, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, called yesterday for voters to decide on the referendum.
“Why not use the ballot as the referee?” he said during a press conference in Cairo.
Former United Nations nuclear-agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, leader of National Salvation Front, urged Mursi to rescind the Nov. 22 decree and to postpone the referendum “until we reach a national compromise,” while speaking Dec. 7 on Egyptian satellite broadcaster ONtv.
Prime Minister Hisham Qandil had called on opposition leaders Dec. 7 to agree to talks with Mursi, saying the current situation will hurt the country’s economy.
Protests and renewed violence have sent Egyptian stocks plunging. The benchmark EGX 30 index slumped 4.6 percent Dec. 6, extending its loss since Mursi’s decree to 11 percent. Markets in Egypt were closed Dec. 7. The cost of insuring Egypt’s bonds through five-year credit-default swaps jumped to a two-month high and the pound weakened to an eight-year low.
On Dec. 7, there were protests by supporters and opponents and attacks against government buildings and Muslim Brotherhood offices. At least 110 people were hurt in clashes around the country, the Health Ministry said, according to the Middle East News Agency. Six people were killed on Dec. 4 and at least 700 injured, the ministry said.
“It’s too late for a dialogue now,” Ayman Abdellatif, a member of the opposition Popular Current Party, said in an interview in Cairo yesterday. “Mursi has issued a dictatorial decree and ignored the opposition’s legitimate calls to revoke it until the country reached a level of division and a point of no return.”
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