Skip to main content

Top Morsy aide: Small, powerful minority behind Egypt's political upheaval

By Reza Sayah and Amir Ahmed, CNN
December 11, 2012 -- Updated 0007 GMT (0807 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy gives army authority to arrest civilians
  • Morsy's top aide says troops have been deployed ahead of the vote
  • In CNN interview, the aide blamed the upheaval on businessmen and the media
  • The opposition is calling for new, nationwide protests ahead of Saturday's vote

Read a version of this story in Arabic.

Cairo (CNN) -- A top aide to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy blamed a small but powerful minority for the political upheaval that has plagued the country ahead of a planned constitutional referendum.

The country will vote Saturday on whether they approve or disapprove of a new constitution recently drafted.

The statements are the latest in a volley of accusations between Morsy's supporters and opponents, and they highlight a political crisis that at times has spilled into the streets, prompting the president to deploy troops and tanks to protect government buildings.

"You have the majority of the poor people, the simple, definitely for the president and for the constitution," Muhammad Rifaa al-Tahtawi, Morsy's chief of staff, told CNN on Sunday.

"You have a majority among the elite who are not for this constitution. Businessmen, media people. They are definitely a small minority, but powerful minority."

A street vendor grills corn as Egyptian soldiers stand guard at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday, December 18, in Cairo. Protesters opposed to President Mohamed Morsy's first round of voting in the constitutional referendum gather during continuing demonstrations. A street vendor grills corn as Egyptian soldiers stand guard at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday, December 18, in Cairo. Protesters opposed to President Mohamed Morsy's first round of voting in the constitutional referendum gather during continuing demonstrations.
Egyptians protest presidential powers
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Egyptians protest president\'s powers Egyptians protest president's powers
CNN exclusive with Amr Moussa
Egypt's president pulls back on decree
U.S. aid to Egypt amid unrest questioned
Morsy: I will not allow murder, sabotage

Al-Tahtawi's comments followed calls by the opposition for new, nationwide protests while accusing Morsy of risking a "violent confrontation" by moving forward with the scheduled vote Saturday.

Read more: What's driving Egypt's unrest?

But al-Tahtawi dismissed the threat, saying the issue would be decided by the people.

"If we do not manage to come to terms, let us go to the people," he said.

Even so, Morsy has authorized the army to help maintain security ahead of the vote, giving it the power to arrest civilians.

Al-Tahtawi told CNN the army will work with police to protect voters and government building's during voting.

"It is possible that we'll have problems. But if voters turn out en masse, I don't think there will be any violence," he said.

Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Monday that the groups opposing the constitution are still considering their response.

"We will either boycott or vote no," he said, calling the entire process illegitimate.

Last week, protesters marched almost every day on the presidential palace, which has been the scene of violent clashes pitting thousands of protesters -- for and against Morsy.

Egyptian authorities said at least six people have been killed in violent clashes in recent days, while the Muslim Brotherhood -- the group that backs Morsy -- has said eight of its members were killed.

More than two dozen Muslim Brotherhood offices, as well as its headquarters in Cairo, have been attacked.

The crisis erupted in late November when Morsy issued the edict allowing himself to run the country unchecked until a new constitution was drafted, a move that sat uncomfortably with many Egyptians who said it reminded them of ousted President Hosni Mubarak's rule.

Morsy had said the powers were necessary and temporary.

Anger about Morsy's move led to protesters reoccupying Tahrir Square, the scene of the Arab Spring uprising that saw Mubarak ousted in 2011. Thousands later protested outside the palace, where the opposition clashed with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The anger only grew when the Islamist-dominated Constitutional Assembly pushed through a draft despite the objections of the secular opposition, including some members who walked out in protest.

Morsy, who is backed by the Muslim Brotherhood's political party, has refused to delay the referendum, saying a constitution is essential for the fledgling democracy. The opposition, meanwhile, says the document does not represent all Egyptians.

The opposition has accused Islamists, predominantly the Muslim Brotherhood, of manipulating the poorer portions of the population, using a fear of God and religion to drive them to vote.

In an interview with CNN, al-Tahtawi, who also is backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, disagreed with the opposition's characterization, describing it as "part of the disease of the elite."

An independent judiciary has backed Morsy, finding that the referendum must be carried out on December 15 to meet a legal requirement.

Morsy canceled the edict that gave him virtually unchecked powers over the weekend, though he did not roll back the directives he put in place before it. Among the steps he took was setting the date of the constitutional referendum.

A coalition of Egyptian Islamic parties, including the Brotherhood, says it rejects any postponement of the vote. A countering coalition of Morsy's opponents, the National Salvation Front, called for protests Tuesday and Friday.

CNN's Reza Sayah reported from Cairo, and Amir Ahmed from Atlanta. CNN's Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Egypt
March 25, 2014 -- Updated 0026 GMT (0826 HKT)
An Egyptian court sentences at least 528 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to death on charges related to violent riots in the southern Egyptian city of Minya.
March 24, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour sends letter to the family of jailed Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy.
March 9, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
CNN's Sara Sidner talks about stepping in for Al Jazeera reporters since they have been barred from working in Egypt.
March 15, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
How are the Arab Spring nations faring? What successes can they boast -- on democracy, economic progress, stability and women's rights -- and what challenges await?
March 4, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
A Cairo court has banned all activities by Hamas in Egypt, calling the Palestinian movement that runs Gaza a terrorist organization.
February 22, 2014 -- Updated 2114 GMT (0514 HKT)
Lawyers representing Muslim Brotherhood members in a jailbreak case call for the judges to be changed.
February 20, 2014 -- Updated 1005 GMT (1805 HKT)
Three Al Jazeera journalists face terrorism charges after being arrested in December. CNN's Sara Sidner reports.
February 9, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
CNN's Christiane Amanpour son the Egyptian government's actions towards journalists.
February 18, 2014 -- Updated 0409 GMT (1209 HKT)
At least four people died and 14 were wounded by a blast on a tourist bus in the resort town of Taba, authorities say.
February 16, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Mohamed Morsy taunts officials who placed him in a soundproof glass box during his trial on conspiracy charges.
February 11, 2014 -- Updated 1301 GMT (2101 HKT)
An Oscar-nominated film portrays a revolution squeezed into its margins,but that's where it started, writes H.A. Hellyer.
January 22, 2014 -- Updated 0818 GMT (1618 HKT)
"Democracy" is meaningless unless the right people are entrusted with implementing it, says Aalam Wassef.
February 6, 2014 -- Updated 2130 GMT (0530 HKT)
Egypt's military quashes a newspaper report that quoted Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi as saying he would run for president.
January 26, 2014 -- Updated 0802 GMT (1602 HKT)
Muslim Brotherhood supporters (background) clash with supporters of the Egyptian government in Cairo on January 25, 2014.
At least 49 people died in violence on the third anniversary of the January 25 revolution, state media says.
January 18, 2014 -- Updated 2204 GMT (0604 HKT)
Voters have overwhelmingly approved a new constitution, a spokesman for Egypt's electoral commission says.
January 15, 2014 -- Updated 0108 GMT (0908 HKT)
Egyptians vote for the first time since the military ousted Morsy. CNN's Ian Lee reports.
January 15, 2014 -- Updated 0111 GMT (0911 HKT)
A study suggests Egyptians are far more likely to support military rule than people in many other Mideast countries.
January 14, 2014 -- Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)
CNN's Becky Anderson speaks to Amre Moussa about what went into the creation of Egypt's constitutional draft.
January 14, 2014 -- Updated 1812 GMT (0212 HKT)
Egyptians have high hopes that the referendum will put an end to the bloodshed, but will Egypt be back where it was at the start of the revolution?
January 13, 2014 -- Updated 1557 GMT (2357 HKT)
International correspondents demand Egypt release three journalists they say have been detained arbitrarily for two weeks.
ADVERTISEMENT