By Mick Krever, CNN
Egypt’s opposition is expressing “legitimate concerns, both about the content and the process” of President Morsy’s proposed constitution, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner said on Tuesday.
“Let me be clear: Our view is that the constitution needs to be for all Egyptians,” Posner told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “It needs to be based on universal principles of human rights.”
Tensions are rising in Egypt as competing protests formed across Cairo on Tuesday, and a referendum on the proposed constitution nears.
Egypt’s association of judges announced Tuesday that 90 percent of its members refuse to oversee Saturday’s planned vote. That is a problem because Egyptian law requires that judges be present at polling places. Nevertheless, a top Morsy adviser said that the referendum would go forward as planned.
Posner would not say whether he, or the United States, believes the vote should be delayed. He did suggest that the process by which the constitution was passed was just as important as its content.
“There has to be a legitimate process that is a negotiation among all Egyptians, so that people feel a stake in the future,” he said. “We clearly want to see a document that is embraced by a majority of Egyptians, and a process and a referendum that’s free, open, fair.”
Though the process by which the proposed constitution has been drafted is clearly troubling to many Egyptians, members of the opposition are, above all, expressing deep concerns about the content of the document put forward by Morsy.
Posner avoided running down a “scorecard” on its content, but said that he had spoken to a range of people on Tuesday who had “different opinions about almost every detail.”
It is a statement that would seem to suggest, though Posner carefully avoided saying so, that the United Sates believes Egypt needs more time to consider the controversial proposed constitution.
“We’re taking the long view here,” he said. “This is a time for restraint, and for smart thinking about the way forward that’s based on principle.”
There are a range of issues that the United States thinks should be included in the document, but Posner singled out freedom of the press as especially important.
“I talked to some journalists who said, frankly, that they’re nervous about the future,” he said. “There needs to be an open space for people to discuss their differences, and to negotiate those differences.”
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported alleged abuse against members of the opposition detained by Islamist backers of President Morsy. Posner called the reports “very troubling,” but said “there’s been violence across the spectrum here.”
He told Amanpour that he had, in private conversations, been urging restraint both from the opposition and from President Morsy’s supporters.
“There’s a lot of tension in the air,” Posner said. “There is a long road ahead, and it’s critical that people think in terms of the bigger picture.”
CNN’s Claire Calzonetti produced this piece for television.