First Published: 2012-12-14

 

Last ‘No to constitution’ rallies in Egypt

 

Opposition gathers for last-ditch protests against new constitution it slams as divisive, but stops short of calling for its boycott.

 

Middle East Online

By Marc Burleigh - CAIRO

Egypt's mainly secular opposition gathered for last-ditch protests on Friday against a new constitution it slams as divisive, but on the eve of a referendum it held back from urging a boycott.

The opposition National Salvation Front expressed "deep concern" over the vote called by Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, which is intended to complete the transition from veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak's rule.

But while again protesting against the spreading of polling over two successive Saturdays, the opposition refrained from urging supporters to stay away from a plebiscite that analysts say the Islamists are likely to carry.

The bloc has organised weeks of protests against what it regards as the hijacking of the pro-democracy uprising against Mubarak by an Islamist-dominated panel to push through a constitution that leans too far towards Islamic sharia law.

Clashes last week between opposition protesters and Morsi supporters left eight people dead and hundreds injured.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a former UN nuclear energy agency chief who heads the opposition Front, said on his Twitter feed: "Insistence on referendum in an explosive, polarized, chaotic & lawless environment is leading country to the brink."

Morsi has ordered Egypt's military to help police maintain security until the results of the referendum are known. A total of 130,000 police and 120,000 soldiers will be deployed, interior ministry and military officials said.

Morsi spread polling in the referendum over two days because of a lack of judges willing to provide the statutory supervision for the vote.

Polls will open on Saturday in the biggest cities of Cairo and Alexandria and eight other provinces. A week later, on December 22, the other half of the country will vote.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and ultra-orthodox Salafist groups backing the draft charter have been campaigning for days for Egypt's 51 million voters to approve it.

Hundreds of them gathered early Friday to back a "yes" vote. Its supporters are stationed along main roads holding "Yes to the constitution" placards.

The opposition -- which initially wanted the referendum postponed and has said it could yet call a last-minute boycott if the poll is insufficiently monitored by judges and independent observers -- has only started urging a "no" vote since Thursday.

"It's you who will pay the price if you vote 'yes.' 'No' to the constitution," said an online campaign advertisement by an opposition group called April 6.

At least two anti-constitution rallies were to be held in Cairo on Friday, after the main weekly Muslim prayers.

International watchdogs, including the UN human rights chief, as well as the United States and the European Union, have expressed reservations about the draft constitution because of loopholes that could be used to weaken human rights, the rights of women and the independence of judges.

Analysts said the proven ability of the Muslim Brotherhood to get its voters out meant it was likely -- but not certain -- the draft constitution would pass.

If it is adopted, "it will exacerbate political tension and result in more acrimony," Hani Sabra, an Egypt specialist for the Eurasia Group, said in an evaluation note.

"The Brotherhood and Morsi believe that if the constitution is adopted, it represents a mandate to pursue their policies. However, majority support does not translate into the bureaucracy falling in line. It will also not silence the opposition," he wrote.

Polls open on Saturday at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) and are scheduled to close at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT).

 

Algerians casting their vote for president

Egypt leftist leader urges all revolutionary groups to unite

South Sudan war: Child soldiers consumed by desire for retribution

Washington will not issue visa for Iran UN envoy

Syria world’s most perilous country fro journalists

Israeli, Palestinian negotiators to hold meeting with US envoy

UN ‘gravely concerned’ about South Sudan oil state fighting

Egypt jails ex-presidential hopeful for fraud

Jordan ‘destroyed’ combat vehicles entering from Syria

South Sudan army loses key oil town of Bentiu

Lebanon parliament soon to elect new president

Zarif to discuss Caspion Sea states in Russia

MERS spreading in Saudi Arabia

Algeria finally opens its piggybank to lure back exiled youth

Suicide bombs rock Ramadi government compound

Three Palestinians killed in Gaza blast

Peace talks delayed after Palestine blamed for fatal shooting

Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Al-Aqsa

Undercover New York police unit that spied on Muslims disbanded

British paedophile gets 20-year sentence in Morocco

Syria army fights its way into besieged Homs

Invisible Bouteflika urges Algerians to vote

Saudi Arabia replaces powerful intelligence chief

Benflis mobilizes ‘army’ to monitor Algeria election

Syria army advances on rebel-held neighbourhoods in Homs

Egypt court bans any Brotherhood candidacies in upcoming elections

Turkey rights groups sound alarm at plan to build gay-only prisons

Kuwait coup plot video ‘neither genuine nor reliable’

Iraq Kurdistan digs trench to prevent militant infiltration from Syria

Saudi urges stern world action against Syria

Zarif mission to mend Iran-Gulf ties begins in UAE

Results of Egypt vote appear before time in collection of signatures

South Sudan rebels demand firms end oil production

Jordan court sentences Syrian smugglers to five years in prison

Security concerns force Iraq to shut notorious Abu Ghraib prison

Turkey to social media companies: Open offices and pay taxes

Bashir bans political party meetings without permission

Shoes thrown at Jordan PM for ‘raising prices’

Jordan envoy to Libya abducted

US condemns ‘unconscionable’ threats against Libyan PM

Assailants attack Bahrain police car with Molotov cocktails

Bomb attack targets security checkpoint in Cairo

US takes issue with Assad’s upper hand claim

Militants close Iraq's Euphrates River dam

How did Bouteflika's 15 years in power bring corruption to Algeria?