Opposition cries foul as Egypt constitution vote proceeds
By Marwa Awad and Yasmine Saleh
CAIRO (Reuters) - Mohamed Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood has begun pushing through a new constitution that will transform Egypt, hoping it will end a crisis which erupted when the Islamist president gave himself sweeping new powers last week.
Mursi said his decree halting court challenges to his decisions, which provoked protests and violence from Egyptians fearing the emergence of a new dictator less than two years after they ousted Hosni Mubarak, was "for an exceptional stage".
"It will end as soon as the people vote on a constitution," he told state television on Thursday night. "There is no place for dictatorship."
The Islamist-dominated assembly was expected to finish approving the draft constitution on Friday, allowing a referendum to be held as soon as mid-December.
Mursi's opponents have attacked it as an attempt to rush through a text they say has been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood, which backed Mursi for president in June elections, and its allies.
Two people have been killed and hundreds injured in the protests since last Thursday's decree, which deepened the divide between the newly-empowered Islamists and their opponents.
Setting the stage more tension, the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies have called for pro-Mursi rallies on Saturday. But officials from the Brotherhood's party changed the venue and said they would avoid Tahrir Square, where a sit-in by the president's opponents entered a seventh day on Thursday.
Seeking to calm protesters, Mursi said he welcomed opposition but it should not divide Egyptians and there was no place for violence. "I am very happy that Egypt has real political opposition," he said. Continued...