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).

 

Egypt declares three-month state of emergency in Sinai

Lebanon army attacks Islamists as violence spreads to Tripoli souks

Dozens dead in Huthi-Qaeda clashes in central Yemen

Punishment for sexual assault in Iran: Execution of victim!

European clubs step up campaign against winter World Cup in Qatar

Turkey keeps 24 people under observation after yellow powder scare

Russia denies Kerry claims: No agreement to train Iraq army

Germany offers to help Armenia forge peace with Turkey

Libya wakes up from ‘Dubai dream’ to face Somalia-like ‘failed state’

South Yemen separatists vow to intensify secession protests

Relatives of Iraq massacre victims: Blackwater guards should be killed

Ghannouchi makes it clear to Tunisia: It’s either political Islam or Daesh!

Deadly clashes erupt after army raid in northern Lebanon

200 Iraqi Kurd fighters to travel through Turkey to Kobane

Coalition strikes in Syria eliminate more than 500 jihadists in one month

Ahead of elections, new clashes remind Tunisia of need to fight terror

Saudi Arabia jails mothers for preparing sons to wage jihad

Jury finds Blackwater guards guilty of 2007 'massacre' in Iraq

Iraq Kurds approve reinforcements for Kobane

Israel classifies car crash as ‘hit and run terror attack’

Turkish woman arrested for stepping on Koran

Erdogan criticises US for airdrops on Kobane

Iraq schools provide shelter but late to open for classes

Syria air force shoots down two of three 'IS warplanes'

Egypt court rules on ‘Nasr City terror cell’

Fire from Egypt wounds two Israeli soldiers near border

By hook or by crook, settlers notch up property gains in East Jerusalem

Turkey envoy meets leader of parallel government in Libya

Israel arrests seven Palestinian fishermen off northern Gaza

Khamenei to Abadi: Iraq can beat 'Islamic State' without foreign troops

Saudi special court rules in cases of riots and terrorism

Libya army scores small victory in Benghazi

Only in Libya: Government calls for civil disobedience

Kasserine reaps bitter harvest from Tunisia revolution: Poverty and terrorism

Iraq Kurds set to vote on deployment of Peshmerga forces to Syria

Islamic State ‘share in US weapons’ embarrasses Pentagon

Alderton: Morocco unrivalled business gateway to sub-Saharan Africa

Protests over IS turn Istanbul University into war zone

Turkey eyes stricter punishment against lawbreakers at protests

For Sudan President: Promises are something and re-election is something else

Iran returns Abadi to ‘house of obedience’

From traditional military to counterinsurgency force: Syria army grows more capable

South Sudan rivals accept 'responsibility' for civil war

British drones in Iraq also used for Syria surveillance

Turkey launches new wave of wire-tapping arrests