Morsi's power grab a rare chance for Egypt's opposition (+video)
President Mohamed Morsi's elimination of most of the checks on his power has galvanized the fractured opposition. But they still lack a strategy for uniting.
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If opposition parties are unhappy with the constitution, they could start now to mobilize a vote against it, and also begin building the grassroots support necessary to increase their representation in the next parliament, says Hellyer. Parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place after the constitutional referendum, likely in mid-2013.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Egypt struggles for democracy
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"They've got a good nine to 12 months before parliamentary elections. The question is, are they going to take advantage of that?" says Hellyer. "If they really want to do this, they have to swallow their pride, accept this is a transitional phase of the revolution, which means you don't get to mark out your turf –you have to choose a strategic objective and focus on that. And once this is done you can go back to your little squabbles and ideological differences."
Unity already fragmenting
Mohamed Aboulghar, head of the secularist Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP), says non-Islamist parties in Egypt are mobilizing their supporters today, bringing in busloads of party members from outside Cairo and calling all party supporters in the capital to come to Tahrir Square.
Opposition figures who attended a Saturday meeting agreed not to negotiate with the president or his administration unless he announces he is willing to cancel or significantly alter the constitutional declaration. They have turned down many attempts at dialogue, he says.
Less than a week after Morsi's decree, some cracks are already appearing among the secular crowd. Some groups are angry that figures who were connected to Mubarak's regime are included in the coalition against Morsi's constitutional declaration. One such figure is Amr Moussa, a longtime foreign minister for Mubarak who left his administration a decade before the uprising.
Secular parties appear to be still in the discussion phase on long-term plans regarding the constitutional referendum and parliamentary elections, tasking a group to study whether the parties should oppose the new constitution in the referendum, or promote a boycott, Dr. Aboulghar says.
Aboulghar says the constitutional declaration took him by surprise because two weeks ago the president invited the leaders of all political parties that were elected to the last parliament to a meeting, and asked their opinions on how to solve the deadlock over the constitution.
"So he was very eager to find a solution, and he didn't open his mouth. He didn't have any comments, he just welcomed us and said 'I want to hear from you. What is your position on how can we sort out the problem?'"
The president's sudden decision to protect the constituent assembly from dissolution after he indicated a desire to seek consensus in the meeting is a sign that the Muslim Brotherhood, in which Morsi was a longtime leader, is dictating his decisions, says Aboulghar. Or perhaps he did not like the Aboulghar's suggestion – dissolving the assembly and starting over, a delay Morsi has indicated he thinks Egypt can't afford.
IN PICTURES – Egypt struggles for democracy