Egypt’s president pulls back on power decree, pushes referendum

Updated 9:26 PM EST, Sat December 8, 2012

Story highlights

NEW: Youth leader dismisses the move, describing it as a "farce"

The decree gave Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy sweeping powers

He vows to move forward with a December 15 referendum on a draft constitution

The opposition wants the referendum postponed

(CNN) —  

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy early Sunday canceled most of a controversial decree that gave him sweeping powers, but vowed to press forward with a referendum next weekend on a draft constitution, an adviser said.

The move was an apparent attempt to end a political crisis that has spilled into the streets, pitting the president’s supporters and opponents against one another and raising questions about Morsy’s ability to lead the fragile democracy.

Almost as soon as adviser Mohamed Selim el-Awwa laid out the offer, many in the opposition dismissed it.

The cancellation of the decree, which put Morsy’s decisions above judicial oversight, was not retroactive, meaning any decisions he made since its announcement still stand. Those decisions, which include the approval of the draft constitution, cannot be challenged by the courts.

Also, the president did not postpone a December 15 referendum on the draft constitution, as protesters demand.

The development came after a meeting at the presidential palace that many in the opposition boycotted.

“This is a farce,” said Ahmed Selim, a member of the opposition April 6 youth movement, vowing to “take to the streets nationwide to continue to protest this dictator and his stubbornness.”

“We are not fools and this new decree serves no one but his followers,” Selim said.

In contrast, Ayman Nour, an opposition leader who attended the meeting at the palace, described the cancellation of the decree as a positive step.

“(It) has opened the door to a possible solution to a national crisis and may calm the situation down,” he said.

Egyptian authorities said at least six people have been killed in violent clashes in recent days, while the Muslim Brotherhood – the group that backs Morsy – has said eight of its members were killed.

The crisis erupted in late November when Morsy issued the edict allowing himself to run the country unchecked until a new constitution was drafted, a move that sat uncomfortably with many Egyptians who said it reminded them of ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.

Morsy had said the powers were necessary and temporary. But that promise did little to quiet the opposition.