by Hassan El-Fekih
by Hassan El-Fekih
CAIRO, Dec 18, 2012 (AFP)
Egypt’s opposition was readying fresh protests on Tuesday in a last-minute bid to scuttle a draft constitution pushed by
President Mohamed Morsi and his Islamist backers.
The mass rallies, the biggest of which are set for outside Morsi’s presidential palace and in the capital’s iconic Tahrir Square, seek to muster voters against the charter in the second round of a referendum to be held on Saturday.
They add to weeks of street unrest that have challenged Morsi’s authority. Early this month, clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi supporters killed eight people and wounded hundreds, and prompted the army to deploy troops and tanks
around the compound.
The opposition National Salvation Front coalition has urged Egyptians to join Tuesday’s protests “to defend their freedoms, prevent fraud and reject the draft constitution”.
The Front accuses Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood of “rigging” the first round of the referendum last weekend through numerous “violations” in polling stations.
Unofficial tallies showed 57 percent of ballots counted from first-round voting in Cairo and nine other regions backed the draft charter, suggesting the text would be adopted in the second round when the other half of the country votes.
Many of Egypt’s 21,000 judges are also maintaining pressure on Morsi, who they say is trying to undermine their independence.
On Monday, the State Council Judges Club grouping nearly 1,000 top judges announced it would boycott supervision of the second round of the referendum. It joined another group of an estimated 12,000 judges boycotting both rounds.
And a protest by hundreds of prosecutors at the High Court in Cairo forced the resignation of the prosecutor general, Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah, appointed less than a month ago by Morsi.
The Supreme Judicial Council would examine Abdallah’s resignation on Sunday, a day after the final round of voting, a judicial official told AFP.
Morsi had sacked Abdallah’s predecessor, Abdel Meguid Mahmud, under near-absolute powers the president decreed himself last month, but which he rescinded December 8 under pressure from the protests.
“This is undoubtedly a new crisis for Mohammed Morsi, showing that his decisions are not accepted by large sectors of the state system,” a political science professor at Cairo University, Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, told AFP.
“They might have let the president get away with it if he had made a good choice, but the person he chose (Abdallah) acted in a way giving the impression he was breaking laws and at the beck and call of the president’s party,” the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Sayyed said.
The professor added that, if, as expected, the draft constitution is adopted, Morsi would be required to call legislative elections within two months.
Morsi’s camp argues the new charter is needed to bring stability to Egypt after months of turmoil following the early 2011 revolution that toppled former leader Hosni Mubarak.
But the opposition is scathing of the document, which was written largely by Islamists, believing it weakens human rights protections, particularly for women, and sets the stage for a creeping advance towards sharia law.
A commentator in the newspaper Al-Masri al-Youm, Hassan Nafaa, wrote that Morsi’s drive to hold the referendum “has managed to do just one thing: solidify and deepen the division between Egyptians to a dangerous and worrying degree”.
“Each of the two rival camps can put the responsibility on the other, but the mutual accusations only worsen even more the division and help create a climate in which it will be difficult to get out of the impasse we all find ourselves in,” he added.