News24

Egypt army delays unity talks

2012-12-12 17:04

Cairo - The Egyptian army on Wednesday delayed a national unity meeting aimed at calming a deep crisis over a constitutional referendum, as the opposition called for a 'no' vote that could become a boycott if tough conditions are not met.

The military's postponement of the talks from Wednesday to an unspecified "later date" was "because reactions to it were not at the level wished for," a statement on the army's official Facebook page said.

The meeting was meant to have taken place later on Wednesday between Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and leaders of the mainly secular opposition National Salvation Front.

The Front, which has been waging a protest campaign against the referendum now scheduled to be held on Saturday and a week later, on 22 December, issued a "call to Egyptians to go to polling stations to refuse the proposed constitution and to vote no."

But it added that that position would change to a call for a boycott if four conditions were not met.

They were that judges monitor every polling station; that security be ensured both inside and outside; that the vote be monitored by both Egyptian and international observers; and that the referendum take place on a single day - this coming Saturday - as had originally been planned.

It will be difficult if not impossible for the government of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to meet those demands.

A key group of judges, for instance, has said it will refuse to oversee the referendum, forcing authorities to split the vote over the two days to ensure supervision meets legal requirements.

Protests for and against Morsi and the draft constitution last week degenerated into vicious clashes between the rival demonstrators that left seven people dead and hundreds hurt.

The army, which is trying to remain neutral while maintaining order, has been given police powers by Morsi until the referendum result has been announced.