Egypt’s president Mohammed Morsi raises barricades around palace in preparations for fresh protests against constitution referendum
Egyptian army officers were seen constructing the third line of the hastily erected barricades around the presidential palace of leader Mohammed Morsi today.
The security measures followed threats of protests against President’s Morsi’s decision not to delay the referendum on his controversial draft constitution, set to be held next Saturday.
Hundreds of Egyptians today marched on the presidential palace and the newly build barricades, despite Morsi rescinded a decree that would stop the judiciary challenging his rule.
Building barricades: A man talks with Egyptian army officers as they construct a third line of concrete blocks outside of the Egyptian presidential palace in Cairo today
His decision to renounce his planned ‘Pharaoh’ powers was a desperate bid to end the violence in which at least seven have died and hundreds have been injured.
Liberal and secular opponents say the framework of the draft constitution is too deeply influenced by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party.
The ratification of the constitution would seal the democratic transition that began when the country’s 2011 uprising saw dictator Hosni Mubarak ousted after three decades of one-man rule.
National Salvation Front leader Ahmed Said called the race to a referendum an ‘act of war’. His movement called for a mass protest at the palace in Cairo. The building was stormed last week by activists angered by the power grab.
Protecting the palace: Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi ordered the barricades to be built after threats of further protests escalated earlier today
Taking it back: Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, pictured yesterday, has announced that he will give up his ‘Pharaoh’ decree, which granted him near-absolute powers and immunity from courts
The concrete wall is the third barrier built outside the presidential palace and as hundreds marched on the palace today Morsi’s worried proved not to be unfounded.
However, Mori’s choice to lift the decree last night could persuade many judges to drop their two-week strike to protest against it, which means they would oversee the referendum as is customary in Egypt.
It was the decrees that initially sparked the wave of protests against Morsi that has brought tens of thousands into the streets in past weeks.
However, the rushed passage of the constitution further inflamed those who claim Morsi and his Islamist allies are monopolizing power in Egypt and trying to force their agenda.
The draft charter was adopted amid a boycott by liberal and Christian members of the Constituent Assembly, meaning not all members voted.
The document would open the door to Egypt’s most extensive implementation of Islamic law or Shariah, enshrining a say for Muslim clerics in legislation, making civil rights subordinate to Shariah and broadly allowing the state to protect ‘ethics and morals’.
It fails to outlaw gender discrimination and mainly refers to women in relation to home and family.
Protect and serve: Egyptian army engineers and soldiers work on the barricades outside the Egyptian presidential palace
In his late night announcement on Saturday, Morsi replaced the scrapped decrees with a new one that doesn’t give him unrestricted powers, but allows him to give voters an option if they decide to vote “no” on the disputed draft charter.
In the new decree, if the constitution is rejected, Morsi would call for new elections to select 100-member panel to write a new charter within three months.
The new panel would then have up to six months to complete its task, and the president calls for a new referendum with a month.
Bassem Sabry, a writer and activist, called the partial concession a ‘stunt’ that would embarrass the opposition by making it look like Morsi was willing to compromise but not solve the problem.
‘In the end, Morsi got everything he wanted,’ he said, pointing out the referendum would be held without the consensus Morsi had promised to seek and without giving people sufficient time to study the document.
Yesterday Morsi was warned by the powerful Egyptian army that ‘anything other than dialogue will force us into a dark tunnel with disastrous consequences.’
The statement, broadcast on Egyptian state TV was attributed to an anonymous official who promised the military would not allow this to happen.
Planning president: Behind the barricades, inside his palace, President Morsi prepares his next move after Egyptian army leaders gave an ultimatum to him and the opposition to hold talks
Good idea: The building works may have been justified as it was reported that several hundreds of Egyptians marched on the palace to protest against the vote on the draft constitution next Saturday