After a string of turbulent, confusing and at times violent days, Monday was relatively quiet in Cairo. There was no additional military presence in the streets beyond the tanks and soldiers around the presidential palace, which were deployed following deadly clashes last week.
But Morsi’s Islamist Muslim Brotherhood backers and his liberal, secular and non-Islamist opponents both called for large demonstrations Tuesday, signaling the continued failure of the two sides to come to a compromise over Saturday’s vote on the draft constitution.
So far, only Morsi has put concessions on the table, although his opponents have described them as tricks and half measures. Morsi on Sunday night rescinded the Nov. 22 decree that gave him sweeping powers, but he replaced it with one that still allows him to issue decrees immune from legal challenge. And Morsi decided to push ahead with the referendum, even though his opponents deem the proposed constitution illegitimate.
Morsi followed his newest decree on Sunday with a new tax reform law, raising levies on income, property and several commodities ahead of a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan that his government is pursuing. Later in the evening, however, Morsi suspended the law, raising doubts about Egypt’s ability to enact austerity measures intended to win IMF approval of the loan. Under an earlier military decree, Morsi has retained the power to legislate in the absence of a functioning parliament, which was dissolved by a court order earlier this year.
Analysts said it was difficult to know exactly what the new decree might mean in the context of Egypt’s ongoing political crisis, which has divided the nation’s revolutionaries nearly two years after they ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak.
“I don’t know what to make of it,” said Nathan Brown, a Middle East expert and professor at George Washington University. “When I read the text of the decree it looks like the military's job is to provide security during the voting process at a time when security has been compromised, when there is the possibility of disruption at the polls and clashes. But in Egypt, anytime you bring in the military, it has political overtones that set people on edge — for good reason.”
Brown said it was unclear whether an article in the new decree granting the military “all the authorities of judicial officers” portended trials of civilians in military courts, which has been a deeply controversial matter during Egypt’s fragile transition period.