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Morsi minister lays out possible presidential strategies to end turmoil

Egyptian minister who co-wrote draft constitution says a number of scenarios are on the negotiation table regarding the fate of the president's recent decisions, including the re-writing of the entire document

Ahram Online, Hatem Maher, Friday 7 Dec 2012
Mohamed Mahsoub
Mohamed Mahsoub, Minister of State for Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils (Photo: Al-Ahram)
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Mohamed Mahsoub, minister of state for legal affairs and parliamentary councils, said president Mohamed Morsi and opposition figures will discuss possible amendments to the constitutional declaration and draft constitution in Saturday's meeting.

"Regarding the constitutional declaration, there is already consensus over the cancellation of article 6 and the amendment of article 2," Mahsoub told Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera television on Friday.

Article 6 states that "the president may take the necessary actions and measures to protect the country and the goals of the revolution" while article 2 shields Morsi's decisions from judicial review.

Mahsoub spoke to Al-Jazeera as hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters continued to demonstrate in front of the presidential palace in Cairo and other cities around the country, heaping more pressure on President Morsi, who has been in office for five months.

Earlier in the evening, the head of the Supreme Electoral Commission Samir Abu El-Maati announced that the expatriate voting on the constitution referendum has been postponed from Saturday to Wednesday 12 December.

"Regarding the constitution, the discussion will be based on whether the political forces deem the constitution valid or not," Mahsoub stated.

"If they consider the constitution as valid, the referendum could be postponed and the constitution may consequently return to the Constituent Assembly.

"If they consider the constitution invalid, then we will have two options: either to re-form the constituent assembly through consensus or elections, or merge the amendments of last year's March declaration with the 1971 constitution," he added.

Earlier in the evening, Egypt vice-president Mahmoud Mekki said Morsi may delay the constitutional referendum, slated for 15 December, "if the opposition accepts dialogue without preconditions".

However, "the political forces who demand the delay of the referendum must provide guarantees that there will not be appeals [against the delay] in courts," he said in a statement.

Last year's constitutional declaration, which was issued by then-ruling military council in March 2011 after a similar referendum, stipulates that a referendum on draft constitution must be held within 15 days of the date at which the president receives the draft from a constituent assembly.

The controversial draft constitution was handed to president Morsi by the outgoing Constituent Assembly on 1 December and the president set a referendum on the draft for 15 December.

Member of the opposition National Salvation Front and ex-MP Amr Hamzawy said in a phone interview with private satellite channel CBC that members of the front will meet to discuss their stance after the announcement made by Mekki about Morsi’s readiness to hold off the referendum, describing the decision as a “positive step.”

However, Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the founders of the Salvation Front, insisted that Morsi withdraw the constitutional declaration “tonight” and to postpone the referendum until national consensus is achieved.

“I ask President Morsi in the name of the Egyptian conscience to heed these two demands tonight. I am betting on president Morsi’s patriotism,” ElBaradei said in a live speech on private satellite channel ONTV.

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