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Opposition set to march on presidential palace against Morsi decrees

Opposition forces will rally at the presidential palace in Heliopolis and in Tahrir on Tuesday as judiciary conflicts continue ahead of the looming referendum

Nada Hussein Rashwan, Monday 3 Dec 2012
Opposition to march on presidential palace as constitution deadlock persists
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir square on Tuesday to protest against the constitutional declaration (Photo: Reuters)
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Egyptian opposition parties and revolutionary groups will organise a march to the presidential palace in Heliopolis on Tuesday afternoon to protest the draft constitution, which will be put to national referendum on 15 December.

The call was initiated by the National Salvation Front, a recently-formed umbrella group led by former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa, as well as reform campaigner Mohamed ElBaradei, after President Morsi announced the date of the upcoming referendum on Saturday.

"The Constituent Assembly is illegitimate, and it produced a disfigured constitution without the participation of women, Christians, workers or intellectuals. We will seek all nonviolent means to prevent this assault on the rule of law from happening," Hussein Abdel-Ghani, a spokesman for the group, told Ahram Online.

Marches from Rabaa Al-Adaweya Mosque in Nasr City and El-Nour Mosque in Abbasiyya will converge on the presidential palace in the district of Heliopolis in Cairo at 5pm, while adjacent protests in Tahrir Square will begin by 3pm.

Tuesday's protests come after over a hundred thousand protesters held a demonstration in Tahrir on Friday to oppose Morsi's controversial constitutional declaration from 22 November, which renders his decrees immune to judicial challenge and also makes the Islamist-dominated Shura Council and Constituent Assembly immune from dissolution by court order.

Morsi's constitutional declaration prompted a wave of rival protests in Cairo and across the country, as both opponents and supporters of the president showcased their ability to mobilise.

In response to the mass protests on Tuesday and Friday, hundreds of thousands of Islamist supporters demonstrated in Nahdet Masr Square in Giza in support of Morsi's declaration and the Constituent Assembly. The demonstration concluded after the head of the Constituent Assembly delivered the draft constitution to Morsi in a ceremony Saturday evening, where Morsi announced the date of the referendum, to cheers in Nahdet Masr and anger in Tahrir.

"Morsi had no other choice but to issue the constitutional declaration and no time to explain it beforehand, in the face of a manipulative court order by the [Mubarak appointed] Constitutional Court on 2 December to revoke his presidency which would reinstate the military in power," historian Mohamed El-Gawadi told Ahram Online.

"If Morsi succumbs to the demands of the opposition and the judges to cancel the declaration and bring back the sacked prosecutor-general, he will immediately be struck from power by the judiciary."

With Morsi's ostensible refusal to back down and the opposition promising escalation, it is unclear how the deadlock will be resolved ahead of the referendum.
"The only way out of the this situation to cancel the call for referendum and form a committee of independent figures and international experts to reformat the controversial articles, and at the same time he should reformulate the membership of the Constituent Assembly in a more representative structure and then put the constitution before them. But I do not think the president will do that now," political researcher Nabil Abdel-Fattah told Ahram Online.

Conflicts within the judiciary

On Monday, Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council officially announced that it will assign judges to monitor the referendum, stirring further conflicts as earlier in the day, head of the Judges Club Ahmed El-Zend announced that club members have agreed not to monitor the referendum.

Conflicts within the judiciary have been ongoing since the constitutional declaration was issued, where a number of courts across the country had suspended their activities in protest over the constitutional declaration on grounds that it is an infringement on the judiciary.

Last Monday, in an attempt to ease the deepening crisis over the constitutional declaration, Morsi met with senior members of Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council, and following the meeting the presidential office announced that the judges had unanimously agreed to the declaration. The following day, reports circulated that the judges did not express unanimous agreement as was announced by the presidency.

Opposition forces have sided with protesting judges since the declaration was issued, and they renewed their support for judges who boycotted the referendum.
"If the constitution passes without the monitoring of the judges it will be an illegitimate constitution," Hussein Abdel-Ghani told Ahram Online.

Morsi's declaration was explained by the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party as a necessary measure to protect the elected president and the elected Shura Council, as well as the Constituent Assembly, which was formed by the elected people's assembly, from possible dissolution by court verdicts from the High Constitutional Court, whose verdict against the constitutionality of the elected people's assembly led to its dissolution by the military council in June.

"Morsi's declaration has led to internecine conflicts within the judiciary. Also, the inclusion of bodies such as the administrative prosecution and the state commissioners, which are not under the direct mandate of the judiciary, in the process of monitoring the referendum will lead to shallow supervision," political researcher Nabil Abdel-Fattah told Ahram Online.

Hundreds of supporters of the president had gathered outside the court building since Sunday morning, where the court was supposed to issue a verdict on the constitutionality of the Constituent Assembly and the Shura Council, which are both immune to dissolution according to Morsi's decree. In response, the High Constitutional Court (HCC) declared on Sunday it will freeze all its sessions indefinitely in protest of "pressure" exerted upon it by Morsi's supporters.

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