Thousands of Egyptian protesters marched on the presidential palace on Tuesday to protest President Mohamed Morsi’s recent decree that gives him near-absolute power as well as a controversial draft of the nation’s constitution. But beyond making their presence felt – demonstrators were tear-gassed and broke through police lines at the palace, forcing Morsi to flee – there doesn’t seem to be a realistic way for the opposition to get what it wants.
On November 21 Morsi passed an executive order that made his past and future decisions immune to judicial oversight and protected the Islamic-dominated assembly writing the new constitution. He then called for a nationwide referendum on the new constitution on December 15.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil told CNN that controversial decree “will fall immediately” if voters approve the Islamic-leaning constitution. And if the draft constitution is shot down by popular vote, the presidential powers would remain.
Then there’s the question of rejecting both by boycotting the process altogether and waiting for elections for a new parliament that would be held two months after the constitution is approved.
“If you participate, you’re bringing legitimacy to a process you don’t believe in,” Shadi Hamid, the director of research at the Brookings Institute’s Doha centre, told The Daily Beast. “But if you boycott, you’re allowing the ‘yes’ voters to win almost automatically,” which would make the constitution’s conservative clause much harder to roll back.
The bottom line is that the secular and liberal Egyptians are unhappy, but Morsi and the Islamists are in power – which puts Morsi in the best position to ease the volatility in the transitioning country.
“Morsi and the Brotherhood have one argument in particular to their advantage, and that’s the argument for stability,” Hamid said.
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