President Mohamed Morsi should listen to “at least half of the Egyptian people” and postpone the constitutional referendum until there is a national consensus, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei has said.
Speaking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday evening, ElBaradei said the Egyptian opposition considered the whole constitution-drafting process “illegitimate.”
“We will do whatever is necessary to get back to why this revolution is all about freedom and dignity,” he said.
ElBaradei, who is general-coordinator of the National Salvation Front, said the group had not yet decided if it would call for a boycott of the 15 December referendum or call for a 'no' vote.
He said he hoped Tuesday’s mass protests would persuade the president to accept the opposition's demands.
“We are hoping that Mr Morsi will rescind his decision, would really come to his senses,” ElBaradei said. “You cannot adopt a constitution which at least 50 per cent of the Egyptian people oppose, that defies its basic rights and freedoms and tries to have a new dictator in the making.”
When asked by Amanpour if the opposition’s call for protests were a “recipe for a head on clash,” ElBaradei stressed that he was not asking for a confrontation but wished to open a dialogue with Morsi.
“We are at a cross in the road,” ElBaradei said. “Either we will have a country that is civil, which respects women’s rights, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, children’s rights, and a balance of power, or we will have a new dictatorship with a religious flavour.”
When asked by Amanpour why the opposition was attacking a democratically elected president, ElBaradei said it was not contesting his position but his policies.
“Being a freely elected president does not mean that you can make yourself a dictator with supreme powers,” he said, referring to Morsi’s November constitutional decree which put his decisions above judicial review.
He also criticised Article 4 of the draft constitution for giving “veto powers” to religious institutions over Egypt’s legislative process. The article says “Al-Azhar ulema are to be consulted in matters pertaining to Islamic law.”
“That is not really the making of a democratic, free and civil state,” ElBaradei said. “On the face of it, it looks fine ... 99 per cent of lawyers here, the legal community is completely opposed to [the draft constitution]. It violates basic human rights values, universal values. It is not that we are fighting for the sake of fight, it is not that we are sore losers.”
ElBaradei also stressed that at least 70 per cent of the Egyptian people are neither Salafists nor members of the Muslim Brotherhood and urged President Morsi to listen to his people.
“It is a question of going forward, catching up with the 21st century or going back to the dark ages,” he said.