Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s attempt to defuse the political crisis with the country’s liberal opposition and judiciary seems not to have worked, and mass demonstrations expected for Tuesday capture the main headlines of Arab dailies.
“Egypt: A crucial day in the constitutional crisis,” reads the headline of the London-based daily Al-Hayat. A referendum on the country’s new constitution is scheduled for December 15, and the paper claims that pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrations in Cairo Tuesday are intended as a show of force ahead of the referendum, which the opposition demands be postponed.
A-Sharq Al-Awsat, a Saudi-owned daily, reports that by presidential decree, the military will guard polling stations on Saturday, making sure that voting proceeds properly. The decision has come under criticism by Amnesty International, which expressed concern that the military may resort to court-martialing civilians, the daily reports, quoting US Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon (Rep.) as claiming that Morsi wishes to turn Egypt into Iran.
The Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera reports that two Salafi parties, Nour and A-Da’wa Al-lslamiyah, announced that they would not participate in demonstrations organized by the Coalition of Islamic Forces, so as not to inflame emotions on the Egyptian street ahead of the referendum.
“The presidency flounders and the public gathers,” reads the headline of the independent Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, reporting that revolutionary youth have decided to initiate civil disobedience on Wednesday, starting with a sit-in at Cairo’s metro system. Liberal political activist Wael Ghoneim commends President Morsi’s new constitutional decree, claiming that it sets a clear path if the public votes “no” on the new constitution. Ghoneim calls on the opposition to negotiate with the presidency on postponing the referendum on the constitution. But another liberal activist, Yasser Khalil, tells Al-Jazeera that the opposition is almost unanimous in its decision to continue protesting on the street until the referendum is canceled and a new constitution is put in place.
“You have your constitution and I have mine,” reads the headline of an op-ed by Mohammed Abul-Gheit in Al-Masry Al-Youm.
“A miserable constitution, written by miserable politicians, still living mentally and emotionally in the political misery of the Mubarak regime,” writes Abul-Gheit. “These are my thoughts while I read the constitution brought to us by Egypt’s political elite, both Islamist and secular.”
Assad losing ground
Arab dailies continue to focus on Syria, reporting on Europe’s mounting involvement on the side of opposition.
A-Sharq Al-Awsat opens its report with the opposition’s advance, for the first time, to Damascus’s northern neighborhoods, as clashes flare near the presidential palace. The daily also highlights a German decision to expel four Syrian diplomats.
In a separate article, the daily interviews Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who says that the Assad regime has “lost its legitimacy long ago” and “no longer rules.” Davutoglu says that international “feebleness” on the Syria question has only strengthened Assad’s tyranny.
The paper also reports on the regime’s depleted foreign currency reserves, claiming that by the end of next year it will have used them all up. Syria’s inflation rate has reportedly grown to 40% and its currency’s value versus the US dollar has dropped 51% since the outbreak of the civil war in 2011.
Al-Jazeera reports “international political activity surrounding the Syrian crisis,” featuring a photo of Jordan’s King Abdullah and his wife Rania chatting with England’s Prince Charles. The Jordanian monarch is to discuss Syria with his British counterparts, but has recently declared that Jordan will not engage with Syria militarily.
Meanwhile, the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reports that Lebanon is demanding leave to question Assad’s adviser Buthaina Shaaban as a witness in the trial of former Lebanese minister Michel Smaha, who’s accused of smuggling explosives into Lebanon at the Syrian’s bidding.