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Morsi Reportedly Giving Up Sweeping New Powers as Clashes Shake Post-Revolution Egypt

In this image made from a live broadcast on Egyptian State Television, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi speaks to the constituent assembly in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. Morsi spoke as more than 100,000 Islamists waved Egyptian flags and hoisted portraits of Morsi in rallies nationwide Saturday to support his efforts to rush through a new draft constitution despite widespread opposition by secular activists and some in the judiciary. Credit: AP

Graffiti depicting Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi covers an outer wall of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012. (Photo: AP)

Egypt's Islamist President Morsi sparked outrage after granting himself near dictatorial powers in November, placing himself above any form of oversight.  Hot off their last revolution, in which they ousted longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, the people refused to replace one dictator with another.  They have been protesting in the streets for weeks, even briefly succeeding in driving Morsi from the presidential palace.

It appears the protesters have won this round.  International reports indicate that Morsi annulled the most controversial aspects of the recent decrees on Saturday.

The Washington Post has more:

The decree will be replaced by a modified version of the original declaration, but the most controversial article — the one that placed all of Morsi’s actions beyond judicial review and sent tens of thousands into the streets in protest — is gone, said Salim al-Awa, spokesman for a national political dialogue held Saturday aimed at resolving the crisis.

Rescinding the decree satisfies a key demand of opposition leaders. But a Dec. 15 referendum on a new constitution, which opposition forces wanted canceled, will go ahead as planned, Awa said.

The compromise was reached at a meeting Saturday that Morsi had billed as a national dialogue but that was boycotted by all but a handful of opposition figures who had earlier said that if the referendum was going ahead, there was nothing to talk about.

It remains unclear whether the new moves will be enough to ease a political crisis that had degenerated in recent days into unprecedented scenes of division, with Morsi’s Islamist backers and his secular and liberal opponents hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails and beating each other bloody with sticks.

Egyptian riot policemen guard a gate of the presidential palace, background, amid ongoing protests, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012. (Photo: AP)

However, the news coming out of Cairo has been somewhat conflicted.  While it seems Morsi is backing down for now, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier that the Islamist may soon put the country under martial law.

The Wall Street Journal writes:

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi may empower the country's military to arrest civilians, according to the country's state-run media, as hopes dim for a negotiated resolution to the country's extended constitutional crisis.

The state-run Al Ahram daily newspaper reported Saturday that Mr. Morsi was preparing to institute a form of martial law a week before a controversial constitutional referendum that could augur more street-level violence.

If the report is true, Mr. Morsi's decision would turn back the clock on Egypt's hard-won transition to civilian rule. Following a year and a half of military rule, Mr. Morsi handily cast the army's leadership aside in August...

It was unclear Saturday whether the Al Ahram report was meant as a cynical threat to intimidate the deepening ranks of Mr. Morsi's secular-leaning supporters or if it was a genuine leak from the president's office.

It remains to be seen whether the protesters will be satisfied with the developments-- or whether Morsi is just biding his time until he can make another power grab.

Here is raw video of some of the protests:


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