Egyptian Islamists plan big rally as referendum looms

Thu Dec 20, 2012 6:12pm EST
 

By Giles Elgood

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian Islamists are planning a mass protest in Alexandria on Friday in a move likely to raise tensions on the eve of a divisive referendum that will determine the political future of the Arab world's biggest nation.

The Muslim Brotherhood called for the rally after a violent confrontation between Islamists and the liberal, secular opposition in Egypt's second city last week ended with a Muslim preacher besieged inside his mosque for 14 hours. Rival factions were armed with clubs, knives and swords.

The run-up to the referendum on a new draft constitution has been marked by often violent protests in which at least eight people have died.

The constitution is backed by President Mohamed Mursi and his Islamist allies as a vital step in Egypt's transition to democracy almost two years after the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

The opposition, facing defeat in the referendum, has called for a "no" vote against a document it views as leaning too far towards Islamism.

The first day of voting on December 15 resulted in a 57 percent majority in favor of the constitution. The second stage on Saturday is expected to produce another "yes" vote as it covers regions seen as more conservative and likely to back Mursi.

The National Salvation Front, the main opposition coalition, said a "no" vote meant taking a stand against attempts by the Muslim Brotherhood, Mursi's political base, to dominate Egypt.

"For the sake of the future, the masses of our people should strongly and firmly say 'no' to injustice and 'no' to the Brotherhood's dominance," the Front said in a statement.   Continued...

 
An opposition activist waves a flag portraying journalist Al-Hosseiny Abu Deif during his funeral in Cairo December 19, 2012. Abu Deif died on December 6, 2012 during clashes between supporters and rivals of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi. 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. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah