CAIRO - Egypt's liberal opposition called for more protests Sunday, seeking to keep up the momentum of its street campaign after the president made a partial concession overnight but refused its main demand he rescind a draft constitution going to a referendum on Dec. 15.
President Mohammed Morsi met one of the opposition's demands, annulling his Nov. 22 decrees that gave him near unrestricted powers. But he insisted on going ahead with the referendum on a constitution hurriedly adopted by his Islamist allies during an all-night session late last month.
The opposition National Salvation Front called on supporters to rally against the referendum. The size of Sunday's turnout, especially at Cairo's central Tahrir square and outside the presidential palace in the capital's Heliopolis district, will determine whether Morsi's concession chipped away some of the popular support for the opposition's cause.
The opposition said Morsi's rescinding of his decrees was an empty gesture since the decrees had already achieved their main aim of ensuring the adoption of the draft constitution. The edicts had barred the courts from dissolving the Constituent Assembly that passed the charter and further neutered the judiciary by making Morsi immune from its oversight.
Still, the lifting of the decrees could persuade many judges to drop their two-week strike to protest what their leaders called Morsi's assault on the judiciary. An end to their strike means they would oversee the Dec. 15 vote as is customary in Egypt.
If the referendum goes ahead, the opposition faces a new challenge - either to campaign for a "no" vote or to boycott the process altogether. A low turnout or the charter passing by a small margin of victory would cast doubts on the constitution's legitimacy.
It was the decrees that initially sparked the wave of protests against Morsi that has brought tens of thousands into the streets in past weeks. But the rushed passage of the constitution further inflamed those who feel Morsi and his Islamist allies, including the Muslim Brotherhood, are monopolizing power in Egypt and trying to force their agenda.
The draft charter was adopted amid a boycott by liberal and Christian members of the Constituent Assembly. The document would open the door to Egypt's most extensive implementation of Islamic law, enshrining a say for Muslim clerics in legislation, making civil rights subordinate to Shariah and broadly allowing the state to protect "ethics and morals." It fails to outlaw gender discrimination and mainly refers to women in relation to home and family.
Sunday's rallies would be the latest of a series by opponents and supporters of Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood.