Egyptian Islamists plan mass protest ahead of constitution vote

Wed Dec 19, 2012 6:36am EST
 
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By Giles Elgood

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian Islamist groups are planning a mass protest in Alexandria on Friday, a move that will raise tensions a day before the final stage of a referendum on a new constitution that has split the nation.

The rally announced by the Muslim Brotherhood responds to a violent confrontation between Islamists and their liberal and secular opponents in Egypt's second city last week that ended with a Muslim preacher besieged inside his mosque for 14 hours.

The run-up to the referendum on the Islamist-backed constitution, billed as a major impetus for Egypt's democratic transition, has been marked by often violent protests in which at least eight people have died.

The first day of voting last weekend resulted in a 57 percent vote in favor of the draft basic law, according to official media. The final stage on Saturday is expected to endorse that result as it covers parts of Egypt, particularly rural areas, even more sympathetic to the Islamist cause.

Last week's clashes in Alexandria involved protesters armed with clubs, knives and swords.

"What happened last Friday reveals the ugly face of secularism," said a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group which backed President Mohamed Mursi in his presidential election victory in June.

Opponents of Mursi staged protests in Cairo on Tuesday evening but numbers were down on previous demonstrations.

Several hundred protesters outside the presidential palace chanted "Revolution, revolution, for the sake of the constitution" and called on Mursi to "Leave, leave, you coward!".   Continued...

 
Protesters opposing Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans as they demonstrate in front of the presidential palace in Cairo December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah