Egypt’s liberal opposition called for more protests on Sunday, seeking to keep up the momentum of its street campaign after the President made a partial concession overnight but refused its main demand that he rescind the draft constitution going to a referendum on December 15.
President Mohamed Morsy met one of the opposition’s demands, annulling his November 22 decree that gave him near unrestricted powers. But he insisted on going ahead with the referendum on a constitution hurriedly adopted by his Islamist allies during an all-night session late last month.
The opposition National Salvation Front called on supporters to rally against the referendum.
The opposition said Mr. Morsy’s rescinding of his decree was an empty gesture since the decree had already achieved its main aim of ensuring the adoption of the draft constitution. The edicts had barred the courts from dissolving the Constituent Assembly that passed the charter and further neutered the judiciary by making Mr. Morsy immune from its oversight.
Still, the lifting of the decree could persuade many judges to drop their two-week strike to protest what their leaders called Mr. Morsy’s assault on the judiciary. An end to their strike means they would oversee the December 15 vote as is customary in Egypt.
If the referendum goes ahead, the opposition faces a new challenge either to campaign for a “no” vote or to boycott the process altogether. A low turnout or the charter passing by a small margin of victory would cast doubts on the constitution’s legitimacy.
The draft charter was adopted amid a boycott by liberal and Christian members of the Constituent Assembly.
The document would open the door to Egypt’s most extensive implementation of Islamic law, enshrining a say for Muslim clerics in legislation, making civil rights subordinate to Sharia and broadly allowing the state to protect “ethics and morals”. It fails to outlaw gender discrimination and mainly refers to women in relation to home and family.