New constitutional declaration to be issued within hours: Egypt PM

Ahram Online, Saturday 8 Dec 2012

Egypt primer Hisham Qandil expects President Morsi to come up with a ‘final’ constitutional declaration to end ongoing turmoil

Hisham Qandil (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt Prime Minister Hisham Qandil stated Saturday that he expects President Mohamed Morsi to issue a new constitutional declaration “within hours” to put an end to the ongoing political turmoil, with mass demos staged to protest a previous declaration and the draft constitution.

“The [political] forces that met at the presidential palace in the dialogue that President Morsi has called for agreed on forming a committee to draft the final constitutional declaration,” Qandil said in an interview with Mehwar TV.

“President Mohamed Morsi is keen to make this dialogue work and put an end to the current predicament. He accepts the option of making amendments to the constitutional declaration.”

Fierce protests broke out last week after Morsi issued a constitutional declaration 22 November that made his decisions immune to judicial challenge. Critics argue the decree puts Morsi above the law and constitutionality.

While Morsi's supporters believe that the decree enables the president to nip in the bud the manoeuvres of the former regime, including replacing Mubarak-era prosecutor general Abdel-Megid Mahmoud, anti-Morsi protesters believe the elected president betrayed democracy in favour of dictatorship.

“The purpose of this declaration was protection [of the president’s decisions] and not creating a new dictators like some people say,” Qandil said.

The opposition also argues – among other criticisms – that the draft constitution, which should be put to a public referendum soon, limits many freedoms by imposing a stricter version of the Islamic Sharia law.

On the draft constitution, Qandil commented: “There is no way all political forces will agree on the constitution by 100 per cent; they are not used to conducting this kind of dialogues.”

“I would like to ask all political current to get back home; the real dialogue has already begun.”

Over 40 figures took part in the dialogue, including Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, former Islamist presidential candidate Mohamed Selim El-Awa, the Salafist Nour Party chairman Emad El-Din Abdel-Gafour and Gamal Gebril, chairman of the System of Government Committee of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting the constitution.

However, the majority of opposition political forces refused the president's overtures made Friday as mass protests congregated at the presidential palace.

The National Salvation Front, the main opposition group led by former presidential candidates Mohamed ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa, was among those who skipped the meeting.

The Front said in a statement on Friday that it is ready to be involved in a "serious" dialogue to put an end to the ongoing political impasse.

The presidential office announced Friday during mass protests that Morsi was willing to hold off the referendum slated for 15 December. Morsi already postponed the expat vote, which was scheduled for today.

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