Back to Tahrir Square

People on the streets of Cairo were still celebrating the ceasefire between the Hamas and Israel when President Mohammad Morsi unilaterally issued a constitutional decree on November 22. By this decree, all his actions would be shielded from judicial oversight. Democratic nations were particularly surprised because Egypt, an anchor to the Arab world, had been well on its way to democracy after the revolution. Morsi argued that he was only trying to maintain stability. His critics believe he issued the decree in order to gain political advantages and protect his party.

Later, President Morsi had to rescind his decision in response to the protests that broke out in the country. But he rushed immediately into another political gamble, adopting a flawed, hurriedly drafted constitution and announcing a referendum on it without sufficient public debate. This unleashed another wave of violence in Cairo's Tahrir Square and in other cities. Millions have gathered, declaring their intention to boycott the referendum and the draft constitution itself. Clashes between members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the opposition have left many dead and hundreds injured.

Egyptians living overseas cast their votes on Wednesday, while the referendum in the country is set to take place today. The National Salvation Front (NSF), a coalition of opposition parties, has announced that it will exhort people to choose the "No" option instead of boycotting the referendum altogether. Other opponents have said they will not accept the constitution in its present shape.

The bitter memory of Khomeini's Iran is still fresh in people's minds. Many fear that Hosni Mubarak autocratic regime, overthrown in 2011, will be replaced by an Islamist autocracy. The newly crafted constitution does not elaborate on the freedom of women or the freedom of speech and of the press. Clauses on social, religious and moral values have been left to the interpretations of the clergy.

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