Egyptian opposition protests against upcoming referendum
Published Sunday, December 9, 2012 7:49AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, December 9, 2012 10:38PM EST
Opposition parties in Egypt continued to protest against a referendum on a controversial constitutional draft that would see the country’s president granted near absolute powers.
The opposition pushed for President Mohammed Morsi to cancel the Dec. 15 referendum, saying that they refuse to legitimize the process.
On Saturday, Morsi abandoned his Nov. 22 decrees that gave him near unrestricted powers including the authority to declare emergency laws until a referendum on the matter takes place. His decision follows a recommendation from the presidential national dialogue committee to move forward with the vote as scheduled.
Main opposition leaders boycotted the presidential committee meeting, as critics said the draft constitution disregards the rights of women and Christians, and enshrines a central role for Islamic law.
The disputed draft constitution has deeply polarized Egypt and sparked some of the most violent clashes between the president’s supporters and opponents since he came to power in June.
Morsi has ordered the military to maintain security and protect state institutions until the results of the referendum are announced.
The draft charter was adopted despite a last minute walkout by liberal and Christian members of the Constituent Assembly.
If approved, the document would open the door to an extensive implementation of Islamic law or Shariah by protecting a say for Muslim clerics in legislation, making civil rights subordinate to Shariah and widely allowing the state to protect "ethics and morals."
It also fails to outlaw gender discrimination and primarily refers to women in relation to home and family. The charter also has restrictive clauses on freedom of expression.
Anti-Morsi rallies continued Sunday, but were smaller than others in recent days.
Protests by both Morsi supporters and opponents resulted in street fights that have left six dead and hundreds of others injured.
Opposition group National Salvation Front said at a news conference Sunday that holding the referendum in such an atmosphere would lead to more strife. The party also called for another mass demonstration on Tuesday.
Morsi replaced his Nov. 22 decrees with another that states, in the event Egyptians reject the constitution in the referendum on Saturday, he would be empowered to restart the charter process. In that case, he would work with an elected 100-member panel of constitution writers.
Morsi’s moves and the latest wave of rallies, follow a statement from the military Saturday that warned of "disastrous consequences" unless a dialogue is begun to resolve the country’s latest political crisis.
In a statement read on state television, the military said that the nation as a whole will "pay the price" if authorities do not negotiate a solution to the political rift.
The military governed the country in 2010, after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak until Morsi’s election.
With files from The Associated Press