Egypt's opposition National Salvation Front has announced that it will not participate in a December 15 referendum over a disputed draft constitution. Earlier, President Mohamed Morsi revoked part of a controversial decree giving him sweeping powers but insisted the referendum on the new document would go ahead as planned.
The head of Egypt's Journalists Union, Sameh Ashour, told reporters Sunday that National Salvation Front leaders has decided not to participate in the constitutional referendum due to take place next Saturday.
He says the National Salvation Front categorically refuses to take part in the December 15 referendum and will not give its blessing to a vote that will inevitably lead to more divisions and civil strife.
Ashour went on to blast President Morsi and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group for their decision to go ahead with the constitutional referendum.
He says that the National Salvation Front insists that what he calls repression, despotism and the hijacking of the state by the president and his (Muslim Brotherhood) group is contributing to the economic woes of all Egyptian families.
An Egyptian protester reads the newspaper as others sit next to their tents in Tahrir Square in Cairo, December 9, 2012
Egyptian men stand near writing on a wall in Arabic that reads down with the leader's rule, no to the Muslim Brotherhood in Tahrir Square in Cairo, December 9, 2012.
An Egyptian jet fighter flys over Tahrir Square as protesters gather, not pictured, in Cairo, December 9, 2012.
Anti-Mursi protesters walk near a military tank in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, December 8, 2012.
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood welcome tanks arriving outside the Egyptian presidential palace in Cairo, December 6, 2012.
Egyptian Army soldiers install barbed wire outside the presidential palace to secure the site of overnight clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 6, 2012
Anti-Morsi protesters set off fireworks and shine laser pointers on a road leading to the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, December 6, 2012.
Protesters gather during clashes between supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi outside the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, December 5, 2012.
A wounded protester reacts during clashes between supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi outside the presidential palace in Cairo, December 5, 2012.
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi carry a body of one of six victims killed during Wednesday's clashes, Al Azhar mosque, Cairo, Egypt, December 7, 2012.
Protesters opposing president Mohamed Morsi attend Friday prayers beneath a poster depicting protesters killed in the Egyptian revolution, Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, December 7, 2012.
Earlier Sunday, Egyptian Air Force jets overflew the center of Cairo at low altitude, as the country's political crisis continued unabated. A few hundred anti-Morsi protesters were clustered in both Tahrir Square and near the presidential palace.
Calls by the opposition for a protest march to the presidential palace did not appear to spur a major outpouring of demonstrators Sunday. However, opposition leaders are calling for a million-man demonstration on Tuesday.
Late Saturday, President Morsi made what opposition leaders called a “cosmetic” concession, agreeing to withdraw part of a controversial decree giving him sweeping powers.
Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the National Salvation Front, nevertheless continued to focus condemnation on the new draft constitution, which he said “thwarts our rights and freedom,” and “will be toppled today, before tomorrow.”
Analyst Omar Ashour, who teaches political science at the University of Exeter in Britain, says Mr. Morsi's decision to hold the referendum is clever, because it sends the dispute directly to the people.
"It was a very clever way to put it back to the people again, to signal that the opposition does not represent all Egyptians and the presidency does not represent all Egyptians. Whoever opposes (the referendum) will be un-democratic, will be the one who does not want to play (by) the rules of democracy and just wants to impose his will on the Egyptian people," he said.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party began its push for a yes vote in next Saturday's referendum, posting an audio version of the new draft constitution on its website.
However, Egypt's judiciary, which is needed to supervise polling, appears to remain hostile to the referendum. Al Arabiya TV reported that only 300 judges have agreed participate in the process, out of a pool of 4,000.