Egyptian factions stage final rallies before referendum

Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:27pm EST
 

By Giles Elgood

CAIRO (Reuters) - Supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi stage final rallies on Friday before a divisive referendum on a new constitution championed by the Islamist leader as a way out of the worst crisis since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

Cairo and other cities have seen a series of often violent demonstrations over the past three weeks since Mursi assumed sweeping new powers to push through the constitution, which he sees as a vital element of Egypt's transition to democracy.

At least eight people have died and hundreds have been injured and a leading opposition figure warned of more blood on the streets during the voting this Saturday and next on a draft the opposition says is too Islamist.

The referendum asks Egyptians to accept or reject a basic law that has to be in place before national elections can be held early next year - an event many hope can steer the Arab world's most populous nation towards stability.

To bolster support for the constitution, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled Mursi to power in June's presidential election, will assemble at a mosque not far from the president's palace in Cairo.

A little later in the day, the liberal, secular and Christian opposition will rally in favor of a vote against the basic law outside the palace and in Tahrir Square, symbolic center of the revolt that toppled Mubarak in 2011.

"During the referendum, I believe there will be blood and a lot of antagonism, so it is not right to hold a referendum," Ahmed Said of the National Salvation Front told Reuters.

Despite the opposition push for a "no" vote, the measure is expected to pass given the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood's record of winning elections since the fall of Mubarak. Many Egyptians, tired of turmoil, may simply fall in line.   Continued...

 
An anti-Mursi protester holds a Cross and a Koran at Tahrir Square in Cairo December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah