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SLOW BURN

The revolution in Egypt is alive and kicking. This was proved by the success of the street protests in forcing President Mohammad Mursi to roll back his November decree by virtue of which he had assumed dictatorial powers. Mr Mursiís judicial immunity remains, but he can no longer pretend to be as omnipotent as he had been only days ago. That, however, is little consolation to the protestors still out on the streets. This is because of the counter-challenge that Mr Mursi has thrown to them. The president is hell-bent on passing what is suspected to be a veritably Islamist Constitution through a public referendum that is slated to be held on December 15. The Constitution was drafted almost overnight by a constituent assembly that, devoid of the presence of the minorities, secularists and liberals after their walk-out about a week ago, was anything but representative. Given the composition of this body and its inclinations, which prompted the withdrawal of these groups, there are serious doubts among a deeply divided people about the Constitutionís ability to conserve the fruits of the revolution and uphold personal freedoms. Mr Mursi and his party have done nothing to allay such fears. In fact, the presidentís efforts to concentrate power in his hands and the party-sponsored violence against protestors have increased these fears. Now that the army has been given the authority to man the streets till the completion of the referendum, there is little Mr Mursi can do to stop his regime from being compared to that of Hosni Mubarak.

Mr Mursi has defended his actions ó be that of scrapping the supreme council of armed forces or the undermining of the judiciary ó as necessary measures to incapacitate the old order and rebuild institutions of State. Yet, he has gone out of his way to accommodate the remnants of the feloul in the government by working out cosy arrangements with many of the former leaders and administrators. In this game of give and take, which has brought the once-hostile army around to defend the interests of its one-time foe, the Muslim Brotherhood, little attention is being paid to preserving the rights and liberties for which the revolution was undertaken in the first place. Street protests have once again placed these concerns at centrestage. Mr Mursi should take heed of them instead of driving the referendum down the throats of an unwilling people.