Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – At a time when several parties are conducting consultation to resolve the Egyptian crisis, including al-Azhar and the Constituent Assembly, a source within the Egyptian presidency informed Asharq Al-Awsat that President Mursi had met numerous political figures in this regard, but this did not include any meetings with opposition symbols. The Egyptian presidential source, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said “the president has opened the door to dialogue, but nobody has responded to this until now.”
A massive rally was planned for Tuesday by opposition activists to protest against President Mursi’s controversial constitutional declaration, which granted him nearly unrestricted powers, as well as the disputed draft constitution, a referendum on which is scheduled to take place on 15 December. Egyptian military sources revealed that armed forces intend to deploy soldiers, tanks and military vehicles to protect the presidential palace and prevent any aggression on the part of the protesters. In addition to the scheduled protest march, eight influential Egyptian daily newspapers – a mix of opposition party mouthpieces and independent publications – suspended publication for a day on Tuesday to protest against reported restrictions on freedom of expression in the draft constitution. Whilst Egypt’s privately-owned television networks have planned their own protest for Wednesday, suspending programming and broadcasting a back screen for the day.
The Egyptian president has defended his constitutional declaration, stressing this was temporary. Speaking after receiving the final draft of the constitution, Mursi said “I renew my call for opening a serious national dialogue over the concerns of the nation, with all honesty and impartiality.” He added “we must move beyond the period of confrontation and differences, and get on to productive work.”
For his part, Al-Azhar University Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb launched a dialogue initiative to deal with the current crisis being witnessed in Egypt, meeting with Constituent Assembly President Judge Hossam El-Gheriany and others on Monday. El-Tayeb announced that this dialogue initiative aims to “bridge the divide” over the draft constitution. All those who attended the Monday meeting will seek to contact Egypt’s various political parties and groups, including the opposition, to resolve the damaging political crisis currently raging in the country.
However former International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] Mohamed ElBaradei had called on the people of Egypt to uphold their protest against the constitutional decree, saying “to the people of Egypt, gathered in all squares nationwide, for freedom and dignity: stand your ground.” In another tweet, ElBaradei said that the draft constitution “undermines basic freedom and violates universal values” adding “the struggle will continue.”
ElBaradei, who is the founder of the liberal Dostour Party, has participated in several Cairo marches in protest to Mursi’s constitutional declaration and draft constitution.