Cairo’s dramatic announcement Saturday of a new draft constitution and President Mohammed Morsi’s call to ratify it in a national referendum December 15 leads the news in all major Arab dailies Sunday, which also highlight the mass rally of Islamists in support of the president’s move.
“Egypt: Morsi preempts the verdict of the constitutional court with a referendum on the constitution ” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat. An Egyptian court was to decide Sunday on whether to disperse the constituent assembly and the upper house of parliament.
The daily’s front-page photo depicts a clearly religious bearded man holding up a Koran at a demonstration in support of Morsi near Cairo University.
‘The situation in Egypt now… is one of widespread, immense anger uniting almost all Egyptians. In cases of general anger we find ourselves confronting — without barriers — the collective subconscious’
It was not surprising that Morsi was able to muster a large number of demonstrators on Saturday for a rally dubbed “legitimacy and Sharia,” writes Munir Jaloudi in Al-Jazeera’s website. But the huge number of pro-Morsi demonstrators surprised both supporters and objectors, “surpassing all expectations.”
“Egyptians reject the rule of political Islamic groups,” writes liberal Egyptian novelist Ali Salem in an op-ed in A-Sharq Al-Awsat. Salem expects that “for the first time in the history of referendums” the people will vote “no” on the new constitution.
“The situation in Egypt now… is one of widespread, immense anger uniting almost all Egyptians. In cases of general anger we find ourselves confronting — without barriers — the collective subconscious.
“Egyptians are not only opposing the constitutional amendments through which the president took control of the three administrative powers… they have revolted with all their power to reject the rule of political Islamic groups, after realizing what they had ignored beforehand: that this type of regime insists on changing their lives for the worse, and does not adhere to the tenets of rule as practiced in the modern era.”
“Morsi is encouraged by ‘show of force’ and challenges the opposition by calling for a referendum,” reads the headline of the liberal London-based daily Al-Hayat, displaying a photo of Morsi supporters praying at the rally near Cairo University.
“Even though the Islamist rally placed “legitimacy” before “Sharia” in its slogan, the demonstrations displayed greater interest in “Sharia,” perhaps in order to garner more supporters … the Islamist slogans wee noticeably personal, with harsh attacks against oppositionists who were mentioned by name.”
Egyptian dailies were no less dramatic in their headlines Sunday.
“The country is on the crater of a volcano,” reads the headline of independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, which reports that the most common slogan shouted at the rally was “the people support the president’s decision.” But ad hominem slogans against opposition figureheads such as Mohammed ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabahi and Amr Moussa could also be heard. Demonstrators also called for “purifying the media.”
Columnist Amr Shobaki, writing for the daily, claims that Morsi’s problem is less the constitutional declaration he issued and more the fact that he is part of the Muslim Brotherhood, the least trusted force in Egyptian politics.
‘If the president of the republic is happy with what is going on right now, God help us’
“Despite all the excuses voiced by the president regarding his motives in issuing the constitutional declaration, his basic problem remains the fact that he hails from the most controversial faction in Egypt’s political system. The tradition of distrust between the Brotherhood and the rest of the political parties has rendered rejection of the temporary declaration a permanent position,” writes Shobaki.
He adds that a constitution drafted by only one segment of society — the Islamist — runs counter to the idea of constitutionalism, which is meant to unite the entire population around a number of core ideas.
On Saturday night pro-Morsi demonstrators began encircling the High Constitutional Court, with numbers reaching 5,000 by Sunday morning, Al-Ahram reports. The daily quotes slogans shouted by the crowd, calling for the dismantlement of the Constitutional Court.
Meanwhile, the liberal daily Al-Watan interviews the head of the lawyers’ syndicate, Sameh Ashour, who says that the anti-court demonstrations are a fascist act.
“If the president of the republic is happy with what is going on right now, God help us,” Ashour tells the daily, adding that the Mubarak regime was incapable of carrying out such a “shameful” and “dictatorial” act as the one being promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party.