Opposition Remains Defiant After Egypt's Morsi Scraps Most of Power Decree

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President Mohamed Morsi relents to popular pressure to nullify his decree that put his office beyond judicial oversight. But he refuses to cancel a referendum on a draft constitution.

In a political reversal to calm weeks of unrest, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi early Sunday rescinded much of last month's decree that expanded his powers and exposed a dangerous divide between the nation's Islamists and the mainly secular opposition.

The announcement reverses most of the declaration the Islamist president issued Nov. 22, including putting his office beyond judicial oversight. The peeling away of that power was a major demand of protesters. But Morsi continued to defy the opposition by refusing to cancel a Dec. 15 referendum on a proposed constitution drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly.

The turnaround by Morsi, who in a national address Thursday had refused to budge on his decree, was a signal that he wanted to ease tension that has resulted in clashes between his supporters and opposition groups that have left at least six people dead and hundreds injured. 

It was unlikely, however, that reversing the decree but sticking to the referendum vote would appease the tens of thousands of protesters who have marched on his palace in the capital and in cities across Egypt.

"This is not a compromise; the president got all that he wanted," said Bassem Sabry, an activist and writer. "What the Muslim Brotherhood wants [is to] get the constitution rammed through in a quick referendum before anyone gets a chance to properly discuss it."

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SOURCE: The Los Angeles Times
Jeffrey Fleishman and Reem Abdellatif
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