Egyptian Opposition Calls For Mass Protests

RFE/RL, 9 December 2012

Opponents of Egypt's President Muhammad Morsi have dismissed his decision to press on with a referendum on a controversial draft constitution, calling for mass street protests.

Egypt's main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, called for mass protests on December 11 against the draft constitution, saying it "does not represent the Egyptian people."

In an apparent response to mounting public pressure, Morsi rescinded a November decree that granted him sweeping powers and sparked days of violent protests.

But he has refused to call off a December 15 referendum on the new constitution, which was hastily drafted and backed by an assembly dominated by Islamists.

Morsi's announcement followed a so-called "national dialogue" on December 8 that was meant to bring rival political factions to the negotiating table to help bring an end to the days of protests.

But the talks were boycotted by major opposition parties and have failed to calm a war of words.

Many in the opposition say the draft constitution fails to meet the aspirations of all Egyptians.

Ahmed Said, a leading member of the main opposition National Salvation Front coalition, described the haste with which the referendum has been scheduled as "shocking."

Another opposition group, the April 6 Youth Movement, called the announcement a "political maneuver aimed at duping the people."

Some opposition protesters on the streets were also unimpressed by Morsi's move.

"The demands of the people consisted of two things: the cancellation of the constitutional decree and the postponement of the referendum," said Mahmud al-A'aad. "One out of two is not good enough for the Egyptian people. The referendum must be postponed until an agreed-upon [draft] constitution is put in place."

Protesters have been camping outside the presidential palace in Cairo for the third straight day.

They accuse Morsi of acting like a dictator and say the rescinding of his decree was an empty gesture since it had already achieved its main aim of ensuring the adoption of the draft constitution.

The president, who came to power in elections in June, says he is safeguarding the Arab Spring revolution, which ousted longtime leader Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Prime Minister Hisham Kandil has defended the referendum, saying it was the best test of public opinion.

"The people are the makers of the future, as long as they have the freedom to resort to the ballot box in a democratic, free, and fair vote," he said.

Article courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

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