Egypt's Morsi Promises Dialogue, Keeps Extra Powers
by Elizabeth Arrott December 06, 2012
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has called for dialogue with key figures on Saturday to end the nation's political crisis. But Morsi's most controversial positions remain unchanged.
President Morsi said that the open meeting is to resolve the standoff between his supporters and opponents that has led to violence in the streets of Cairo.
In a televised address late Thursday, Morsi said he would hold the meeting at the presidential palace with political figures, legal experts and revolutionary youth to reach an agreement that unites everyone.
But he did not back away from a referendum on a draft constitution, set for December 15, which, along with his assumption of extraordinary powers two weeks ago, has polarized the nation.
The president's Islamist supporters have fought pitched battles with liberal and secular forces, many of whom were behind last year's revolution that paved the way for Morsi to become Egypt's first democratically elected president. Some are now calling for Morsi to resign.
The president defended the right of freedom of expression for his opponents. But he blamed "black money" and forces "inside and outside" the country and supporters of Egypt's former government for the violence that has claimed several lives in recent days.
Morsi said a presidential convoy was attacked on Tuesday, and asked, "Is this peaceful protest?"
The worst violence occurred on Wednesday, when Morsi's Islamist supporters converged on his opponents outside the presidential palace.
At the end of his speech, Morsi offered condolences to the families of the victims.
Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Director Heba Morayef says that with the constitutional declaration placing his decisions above judicial review, Morsi has made any conversation with his opponents difficult.
"Morsi also needs to know that he doesn't have absolute power and he can't do whatever he wants in the name of 'the revolution.' So he can't take steps like this decree, which is a power grab flying in the face of the respect for the rule of law and then just expect everybody to to accept it. And I think that's what needs to be the framework for any dialogue to occur,' she said.
Morsi says he will give up his extra powers after the constitutional referendum is in place. He has defended his actions as a means to advance Egypt's transition to democracy, nearly two years after the revolution.
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