Egypt President Mohammed Morsi cancels controversial decree

Egypt President Nixes Controversial Decree

Egypt President Nixes Controversial Decree

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Dec. 9 2012 7:11 AM

Egypt President Nixes Controversial Decree

Graffiti depicting Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (L), ousted president Hosni Mubarak (R) and former head of the army Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi cover the walls outside the presidential palace in Cairo

Photo by PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi surprised opponents late Saturday by canceling a Nov. 22 decree that had angered many Egyptians and led to violent street protests. Morsi issued a new decree that replaced some of the most controversial articles, including the one that gave the president near-absolute powers by making his decisions ineligible for judicial review. But, in a blow to the opposition, Morsi insisted that the referendum on a new constitution will go ahead as planned on Dec. 15, reports Reuters. Morsi’s government also offered a way for the opposition to negotiate constitutional amendments this week before the vote Saturday. The BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil calls the move “a major sign of compromise on the president’s part,” although it “remains to be seen” whether the move will ease tensions. It doesn’t appear likely. Many in the opposition quickly dismissed the concessions as insufficient and called for more protests, reports CNN.

The move might not be as much of a compromise as it could appear at first glance. After all, Morsi already got much of what he wanted out of the decree by using it to protect the assembly that is writing the constitution, which is dominated by Islamist, from being disbanded by Egypt’s highest court, points out the Washington Post. The announcement of the new decree came on the same day as state media reported that Morsi was getting ready to impose martial law in order to allow the referendum on the constitution to move forward. The reports may have been more of a warning to his opponents that their protests would not cancel the vote, points out the New York Times.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.