Mixed reactions to Morsy’s call for constitutional referendum

Politicians have given mixed reactions to President Mohamed Morsy’s call for a 15 December referendum on the draft constitution completed by the Constituent Assembly Thursday.

The president made the call late Saturday after assembly chairperson Hossam al-Gheriany handed him the document in an official ceremony.

Numerous assembly members had resigned from the constitution-drafting body complaining of Islamist domination of the drafting process. Islamist members, however, claim that the withdrawn members had agreed to all the articles included in the draft.

Morsy’s call came amid demonstrations across the country supporting and condemning a constitutional declaration he made on 22 November, which granted him unchallengeable legislative powers.

In a statement late Saturday, the liberal Constitution Party, headed by reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei, said Morsy “ignored objections by large segments of the Egyptian society to the farcical way the draft had been completed.” The party reiterated its demands to form a new, consensual Constituent Assembly to prepare a different constitution, arguing that the current document lacks legitimacy.

Former presidential candidate and Strong Egypt Party head Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh tweeted on Sunday that Morsy’s call for a referendum reflects an “insistence to divide the nation.” He accused Morsy of failing to keep his pledge to achieve a consensual constitution.

Former presidential nominee Amr Moussa, who had dropped out of the Constituent Assembly, called for an urgent meeting of the National Salvation Front, an alliance of liberal and secular political parties, to discuss Morsy’s call for a referendum. He said in press statements late Saturday that the draft has been introduced with “unprecedented speed,” adding that the people have not had the chance to debate its content.

But other politicians agreed to the president’s move. Constituent Assembly and Muslim Brotherhood member Farid Ismail said the date set for the referendum is “very suitable for ending the transitional period.” He told the website of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party that the poll would mark an end to “unfeasible” political disputes.

Ghad al-Thawra Party leader Ayman Nour, who was also a member of the constitution drafting panel, told Al Jazeera satellite channel late Saturday that the referendum preempts any judicial verdicts against the Constituent Assembly. He urged citizens to take part in the poll, predicting that voters will approve the draft constitution.

Salafi Dawah spokesperson Abdel Moneim al-Shahat, told London-based Asharq al-Awsat that voters would approve the draft by at least 80 percent, arguing that “even Copts will vote for the constitution” as the draft stipulates that Christians may resort to their religious laws in personal matters.

Shahat leveled criticism at opponents to the constitution, saying, “They will not change their stance.” He added that the opposing groups had previously agreed to the document before withdrawing from the process “mysteriously.”

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