Egypt opposition urges "no" vote on divisive constitution

Wed Dec 12, 2012 5:17pm EST
 
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By Tamim Elyan and Marwa Awad

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's liberal and secular opposition has urged its supporters to vote down a divisive constitution put forward by Islamists, and set conditions for taking part in the referendum that will be hard for organizers to meet.

Islamist President Mohamed Mursi touched off a storm last month when he awarded himself sweeping powers to push through a hastily drafted basic law that he sees as an essential part of Egypt's transition to democracy.

The streets of Cairo and other cities have been the scene of often violent demonstrations by protesters opposed to a constitution they see as favorable towards the Islamists, and by pro-Mursi groups who back the document.

Seven people have died in the latest clashes between Muslim Brotherhood and opposition supporters. The presidential palace is surrounded by tanks, barbed wire and concrete barricades, although the army has not used force against protesters.

Efforts to resolve the worst political upheaval since the fall of Hosni Mubarak almost two years ago suffered a blow on Wednesday when the army called off planned "unity" talks involving rival factions, after an army official said the military was seen to be taking too political a role.

With the first round of polling in the Arab world's most populous nation only two days away, the opposition set out a list of demands for a fair vote that will test the organizers.

The opposition said it would still call for a boycott unless the referendum is held with full supervision by judges, security guarantees, and local and international monitoring. It also wants the vote held on one day rather than the two - December 15 and 22 - that the government has chosen.

State media said the two-day voting plan had been adopted because many of the judges needed to oversee the vote were staying away in protest at the decision to hold the referendum.   Continued...

 
A soldier stands in front of a mural depicting Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak (R), former Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi (C) and Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi drawn on the wall of the presidential palace in Cairo December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah