Mursi u-turn fails to calm Egyptian protesters
Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi cancels a decree that will give him sweeping powers yet demonstrators say it is not good enough.PT1M3S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2b45i 620 349 December 9, 2012
CAIRO: Egypt's opposition National Salvation Front says it will boycott the vote on the new constitution, arguing it is impossible against a background of Muslim Brotherhood "intimidation". The referendum was "grossly irresponsible", it claimed.
President Mohammed Mursi's decision to rescind most of the controversial decree awarding himself sweeping powers has failed to stem the wave of protests against him.
To have a referendum now with the threat of Muslim Brotherhood militias and threats and intimidation against the opposition, and absence of security, is grossly irresponsible.National Salvation Front
In Cairo, protesters demonstrated defiance with a march on the presidential palace, now heavily guarded by the army and surrounded by a cement wall. The opposition called for fresh protests, while insisting it still recognised Dr Mursi as the elected president.
Stand-off ... an anti-Mursi protester confronts soldiers on a newly built barrier outside the presidential palace. Photo: Reuters
Mursi supporters held marches near the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters on Sunday in support of the referendum and a yes vote.
"The referendum will cause further division and polarisation and the Front [NSF] refuses the draft constitution which cements presidential oppression and tramples freedoms and liberties," said Sameh Ashour, the head of the Lawyers Syndicate, in a statement on behalf of the NSF coalition.
"To have a referendum now with the threat of Muslim Brotherhood militias and threats and intimidation against the opposition, and absence of security, is grossly irresponsible. The Front calls on Egyptians to continue to peacefully protest on Tuesday against the constitution and a president who ignores his people."
After more than two weeks of stand-offs and street battles, the government called a dramatic press conference at midnight on Saturday to announce that Dr Mursi had rescinded his November 22 decree, which gave the presidency extensive powers. A new decree was announced, leaving out many of the most controversial elements, but retaining the president's judicial immunity.
The government insisted that the referendum would go ahead on Saturday, and Dr Mursi issued a decree giving the army powers to arrest and detain civilians until the result is announced.
On Sunday, Dr Mursi used legislative powers he holds in the absence of parliament to implement tax rises on more than 50 goods, including fuel, electricity, steel, cement and luxury items such as cigarettes and alcohol. The increases are among economic reforms being introduced before the December 19 deadline for International Monetary Fund approval of a $US4.8 billion ($4.6 billion) loan.
Last month's decree granted Dr Mursi and the country's constituent assembly immunity from judicial review, pre-empting a verdict from the constitutional court. It also included a catch-all article giving Dr Mursi authority to take any measures he saw fit to safeguard national security.
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