Backing Off Added Powers, Egypt’s Leader Presses Vote

CAIRO — Struggling to quell violent protests that have threatened to derail a referendum on an Islamist-backed draft constitution, President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt moved Saturday to appease his opponents with a package of concessions hours after state news media reported that he was moving toward imposing a form of martial law to secure the streets and allow the vote.

Mr. Morsi did not budge on a critical demand of the opposition: that he postpone the referendum set for next 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.

But in a midnight news conference, his prime minister said Mr. Morsi was offering concessions that he had appeared to dismiss out of hand a few days before. The president rescinded most of his sweeping Nov. 22 decree that temporarily elevated his decisions above judicial review and drew tens of thousands of protesters into the streets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.

Taken together, the announcements, rolled out over a confusing day, appeared to indicate the president’s determination to do whatever it takes to get to the referendum, which his Islamist supporters say will lay the foundation of a new democracy and a return to stability.

Read more at The New York Times

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