That satisfies a key demand of opposition leaders, though the article has already served its purpose for Morsi. He had used it to protect an Islamist-dominated constitution-writing panel from dissolution by Egypt’s highest court, enabling the panel to pass a controversial draft charter. And a Dec. 15 referendum that opposition forces had wanted canceled will go ahead as planned, Awa said.
All but a handful of opposition figures had boycotted the national dialogue, saying that if the referendum was going ahead, there was nothing to talk about.
It remains unclear whether the compromise will be enough to calm a political crisis that has split the revolutionary allies who ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago. In recent days, the crisis has degenerated into violent scenes of division, with Morsi’s Islamist backers and his secular, liberal and non-Islamist opponents beating each other bloody with rocks, sticks and clubs.
Further details of the new constitutional decree were unclear. But as the national dialogue got underway Saturday, Morsi appeared to be preparing to grant the military broad powers to arrest civilians and keep public order until a new constitution is approved and parliamentary elections are held, according to a report Saturday in the state-run newspaper al-Ahram.
The move was approved by Morsi’s cabinet, the newspaper said, and would require him to issue a new decree for it to take effect, which Morsi had not done by late Saturday.
The nation’s armed forces followed that report with a broadcast statement Saturday afternoon clearly supporting Morsi’s call for a dialogue to end the crisis, saying that anything else would lead the nation into a “dark tunnel that will result in catastrophe.”
“These divisions defy the fundamentals of the Egyptian state, and threaten its national security,” read the statement issued by the Ministry of Defense, which is headed by a Morsi appointee.
Egypt’s U.S.-supplied military, perhaps the nation’s most powerful institution, has cast itself as interested purely in national stability. Military officials have said the armed forces are not taking sides in a political crisis that has divided Egypt into Islamists who support Morsi and a coalition of liberals, secularists, Christians and others who do not, a group that includes some figures from Mubarak’s government.
But several analysts said that, read together, Saturday’s statements about the military seemed to place Egypt’s powerful armed forces on the side of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood backers.