Egypt’s election committee has postponed the vote for Egyptian expatriates on the country’s controversial draft constitution, NBC News’ Ayman Mohyeldin reported from Cairo.
Mohyeldin called the delay a “breakthrough,” saying it may indicate Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s willingness to consider opposition forces’ demands.
Protesters, who argue the new constitution favors Islamists over secular forces, are demanding cancellation of the entire nationwide referendum slated for December 15. The vote for Egyptians living abroad was scheduled to begin Saturday, but will now start on Wednesday.
On Friday, tens of thousands of protesters breached the military barricade outside the walls of the presidential palace in Cairo. As of Friday afternoon, protesters had not yet broken through the palace walls or gates and there was no military personnel between protesters and palace walls, Mohyeldin confirmed.
In an address to the Egyptian nation on Thursday, President Morsi invited opposition groups to the presidential palace on Saturday to discuss the ongoing conflict. Egypt’s main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front, rejected the offer because Morsi refused to rescind his November 22 decree that granted him near-absolute powers, and because he has not yet postponed the December 15 referendum.
President Barack Obama called President Morsi on Thursday to express his “deep concern” over the deaths and injuries of protesters in Egypt. Obama welcomed Morsi’s call for dialogue with the opposition, but urged that dialogue has to take place without strings attached.
“We want to see the Egyptian people emerge from this time with a greater democratic infrastructure, and we want to see this political transition succeed,” U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Friday. “It’s really up to the Egyptian people to decide what that process looks like. But what’s important now is that this dialogue begin, as I said, without preconditions.”