Egypt panel backs initial constitution vote date; Morsi agrees to rescind power
CAIRO — A national dialogue committee said a referendum on a disputed draft constitution will be held on schedule, but President Mohammed Morsi has agreed to rescind the near-absolute power he had granted himself.
The statement came after a meeting that was boycotted by the main opposition leaders who are calling for the Dec. 15 vote to be canceled.
Morsi had called for the dialogue to try to defuse a spiraling crisis, but the decision appeared unlikely to appease the opposition since it recommends the referendum go ahead as scheduled. Morsi's initial declaration was to be rendered ineffective anyway after the referendum.
Gamal Eid, a human rights lawyer, said the recommendations to rescind some powers were a "play on words" since Morsi had already achieved the desired aim of finalizing the draft constitution and protecting it from a judicial challenge.
The charter, which would enshrine Islamic law and was drafted despite a boycott by secular and Christian members of the assembly, is at the heart of a political crisis that began Nov. 22 when Morsi granted himself authority without judicial oversight.
Opposition activists are camping outside the presidential palace and are calling for more protests today.
Several rallies on both sides have drawn tens of thousands of people into the streets and sparked fierce bouts of street battles that have left at least six people dead. Several offices of the president's Muslim Brotherhood also have been torched in the unrest.
Selim al-Awa, an Islamist at the meeting, said the committee found it would be a violation of earlier decisions to change the date of the referendum.
However, the committee recommended removing articles that granted Morsi powers to declare emergency laws and shield him from judicial oversight.
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