Morsi’s concessions fail to quiet foes
President rescinds much of decree, but referendum not welcomed.
CAIRO — Crowds of protesters marched on the presidential palace in Cairo on Sunday, registering fresh anger against President Mohammed Morsi’s plan to go ahead with a referendum on an Islamist-backed draft constitution.
With efforts to quell the tensions flagging, Morsi on Sunday issued an order placing security over government institutions in the hands of the military until after the results of Saturday’s referendum, The Associated Press reported. The order, which will take effect today, also grants soldiers the right to arrest civilians.
In a concession to the opposition, Morsi rescinded Saturday most of a sweeping Nov. 22 decree that temporarily elevated his decisions above judicial review and that had put tens of thousands of protesters into the streets calling for his downfall. He also offered a convoluted arrangement for the factions to negotiate constitutional amendments this week that would be added to the charter after the vote.
But, Morsi did not budge on a critical demand: that he postpone the referendum set for Saturday to allow a thorough overhaul of the proposed charter, which liberal groups say has inadequate protection of individual rights and provisions that could someday give Muslim religious authorities new influence. His decision Sunday to deploy the military, which has been widely interpreted an imposing martial law, seemed to indicate his resolve.
Some opposition leaders vowed to continue the fight to derail the referendum, including the National Salvation Front, which announced that it would meet to decide on a course of action, The Associated Press reported.
“We are against this process from start to finish,” a spokesman of the National Salvation Front, Hussein Abdel Ghani, said Sunday, according to Reuters. He called for more street protests on Tuesday.
In recent days, protesters have attacked more than two dozen Muslim Brotherhood offices and ransacked the group’s headquarters, and more than seven people have died in street fighting between Islamists and their opponents.
The moves over the weekend offered little hope of fully resolving the standoff, in part because opposition leaders had ruled out — even before his concessions were announced — any rushed attempt at a compromise just days before the referendum.
“No mind would accept dialogue at gunpoint,” said Mohamed Abu El Ghar, an opposition leader.