Egypt's Morsi revokes emergency decree

Updated 8:41 PM ET

(CAIRO) In Egypt, the chaos on the streets appears to have forced President Mohammed Morsi's hand. He has revoked last month's emergency decree, giving up the power that essentially placed him above the law. But he's insisting next Saturday's referendum on a new constitution goes ahead as planned.

The partial climb down came after a day-long meeting that had been called for all parties, but the opposition boycotted.

It followed a dire warning from the military that anything other than dialogue among the political parties would "force us into a dark tunnel with disastrous consequences".

But the bickering is likely to go on.

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Egypt President Morsi's supporters clash with opposition protesters in Cairo

Morsi still needs to form a workable coalition, said Khalid Fahmy of the American University of Cairo.

"He is the democratically-elected president," said Fahmy, "but sadly, he is not acting as a president. He is acting as a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood."

And both sides need to curb the excesses of their supporters.

The Muslim Brotherhood's head office was wrecked a few days ago by opposition supporters, an act the former supreme leader Mahdy Akef called criminal.

"What is happening in Egypt is not Egypt,"he said.

Street violence has both driven and inhibited the political process. Opposition supporters laid virtual siege to the presidential palace and are threatening further unrest if the president doesn't back down.

"The opposition is helpless and is divided, and is without a vision," said Fahmy.

That leaves the streets as the forum for what passes for political discourse, and the army as referee.

It's a role they may have to fill for some time. Morsi is insisting a referendum be held next weekend to vote on a constitution his party and its Islamist allies have written. The opposition wants one to be drawn up that represents everyone's interests.

  • Allen Pizzey

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