Saturday 24 March 2018

Egyptian protests escalate over constitution vote

Alastair Beach Cairo

OPPOSITION groups have spurned an offer from Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to reverse his highly controversial power grab, vowing to escalate their protests until he scraps a planned referendum on the new constitution.

With no end in sight to the country's simmering political tensions, thousands of protesters were due to stage another march on Mr Morsi's presidential palace last night.

Mr Morsi met with various political figures on Saturday but the talks were hamstrung from the outset after a boycott by all of the major opposition parties. Most of those who turned up were Islamists or allies of Mr Morsi.

But following a 10-hour discussion, Mr Morsi agreed to ditch a decree issued last month in which he granted himself a virtual monopoly over Egyptian government.

Mr Morsi's concession had been a demand of his opponents, yet it failed to address the key issue of Egypt's new constitution, which is due to be put before the nation in a referendum on Saturday.

Islamists say the vote will seal a democratic transition that began when a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak 22 months ago. Their liberal, leftist and Christian adversaries say the document could threaten freedoms and fails to embrace the diversity of Egypt's 83 million people.

Irish Independent

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