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Middle East

Egypt braced for fresh anti-charter protests

Opposition suppoters set to take to streets following alleged violations during first round of constitutional poll.
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2012 06:26
Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei has called for the second round of the referendum to be scrapped [AFP]

Egypt's opposition has called for mass protests in Cairo and elsewhere on Tuesday over alleged polling violations during the first round of a referendum on the country's draft constitution.

The National Salvation Front (NSF), the opposition coalition, urged Egyptians to "take to the streets on Tuesday to defend their freedoms, prevent fraud and reject the draft constitution".

It claimed "irregularities and violations" marred the initial stage of the referendum last weekend across half of Egypt, which President Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood said resulted in a 57 per cent "yes" vote, according to its unofficial tally.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief co-ordinating leader of the NSF, has renewed his call for the president to cancel the referendum altogether and enter talks with the opposition.

Legal fraternity pressure

Meanwhile, on Monday, a group of top judges announced that it would boycott supervision of the second round of the referendum, due to be held on Saturday.

The State Council Judges Club, whose members took part in overseeing the first round as required by law, said it would boycott the next vote because the authorities had failed to live up to their promises.

The association has demanded that a "siege" of the Supreme Constitutional Court by Brotherhood supporters be lifted.

Adding to the complications for President Mohamed Morsi's government is the resignation on Monday of the country's new public prosecutor, Talaat Ibrahim.

Ibrahim stepped down after being pressured by the same judges who are boycotting the poll.

The Supreme Judicial Council will examine the resignation next Sunday, the AFP news agency reported.

Germany suspends debt relief

Egypt's economy remains in crisis, and on Monday, the German overseas development ministry said that a plan to forgive up to $316 million of Cairo's debt had been delayed indefinitely.


Dirk Niebel, the country's development minister, said earlier that he had serious reservations. "There is the danger that the dictatorial system of ousted president [Hosni] Mubarak is returning," he told the daily Berliner Zeitung.

Niebel said Berlin had cancelled talks on development aid scheduled for mid-December and that future assistance was dependent on Egypt's progress toward democracy and the rule of law.

Egypt has seen weeks of sometimes violent protests in Cairo and elsewhere, sparked by the issuance of a Morsi decree that put presidential orders above judicial review. Morsi has since rescinded that decree under public pressure, but he stuck by an accelerated schedule for passage of the country's draft constitution, written by a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated constituent assembly.

The opposition says the constitution weakens human rights, especially those of women, and undermines the independence of judges while strengthening the military.

Morsi, however, says the document is the key to securing stability, and cites his popular mandate as giving him the power to institute change.

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