Egyptians protest after draft constitution raced through

Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:46pm EST
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By Edmund Blair and Patrick Werr

CAIRO (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Egyptians protested against President Mohamed Mursi on Friday after an Islamist-led assembly raced through approval of a new constitution in a bid to end a crisis over the Islamist leader's newly expanded powers.

"The people want to bring down the regime," they chanted in Tahrir Square, echoing the chants that rang out in the same place less than two years ago and brought down Hosni Mubarak.

Mursi said a decree halting court challenges to his decisions, which sparked eight days of protests and violence by Egyptians calling him a new dictator, was "for an exceptional stage" and aimed to speed up the democratic transition.

"It will end as soon as the people vote on a constitution," he told state television while the constituent assembly was still voting on a draft, which the Islamists say reflects Egypt's new freedoms. "There is no place for dictatorship."

But the opposition cried foul. Liberals, leftists, Christians, more moderate Muslims and others had withdrawn from the assembly, saying their voices were not being heard.

Even in the mosque where Mursi said Friday prayers some opponents chanted "Mursi: void" before sympathizers surrounded him shouting in support, journalists and a security source said.

Tens of thousands gathered across the country, filling Tahrir Square and hitting the streets in Alexandria and other cities, responding to opposition calls for a big turnout. Rival demonstrators clashed after dark in Alexandria and the Nile Delta town of Al-Mahala Al-Kobra, some hurling rocks in anger.

An opposition leaflet distributed on Tahrir urged protesters in Cairo to stay overnight before Saturday's rallies by Islamists; the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies said they would avoid the square during their demonstrations backing Mursi.   Continued...

Protesters against President Mohamed Mursi are seen gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo in this general view taken November 30, 2012. An Islamist-led assembly raced through approval of a new constitution for Egypt on Friday to end a crisis over Mursi's newly expanded powers, but opponents responded with another rally in Cairo against the Islamist leader. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany