Egypt’s opposition has called for more protests against President Mohamed Morsi after rejecting his plans for a constitutional referendum later this week on a disputed draft constitution.
“The National Salvation Front announces its total rejection of the referendum and will not legitimise this referendum which will definitely lead to more strife,” Sameh Ashour, who spoke on behalf of the coalition of opposition parties, said on Sunday.
“The Front invites Egypt’s great people to protest peacefully in various liberation squares in the capital this coming Tuesday to show dissatisfaction at the president’s disregard of the people’s demands and in refusal of the constitution that infringes on rights and freedoms.”
Morsi’s decision on Saturday to retract a decree awarding himself wide powers failed to placate opponents who accused him of plunging Egypt deeper into crisis by refusing to postpone the vote on the constitution scheduled for December 15.
“We are against this process from start to finish,” Hussein Abdel Ghani, spokesman of the National Salvation Front, said.
But not everyone in the opposition agrees: Instead of rejecting the process, several parties, including the Strong Egypt party and the Social Democrats, are actively campaigning for a “no” vote. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the National Salvation Front, seemed to hint at these divisions in an interview with American broadcaster CNN on Monday night.
“We will continue to vote on the street with our feet,” he said. “We will either boycott, or vote ‘no.'”
The Egyptian president insists on holding the referendum on schedule, despite concerns over who will monitor the vote. Several groups of judges, including the judges club in the central city of Assiut, have said they will not oversee the referendum.
But on Monday, the state council judges club in Cairo announced that its members would work as monitors, as long as the government “eliminates causes of clashes” by banning protests on Saturday.
The opposition has repeatedly said that the constitution, drafted by a Muslim Brotherhood-led constituent assembly, disregards the rights of women and ignores personal freedoms.
“I cannot imagine that after all this they want to pass a constitution that does not represent all Egyptians,” Ahmed Said, another member of the National Salvation Front coalition and the head of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, said.
Military to maintain security
The Egyptian military has assumed responsibility for security and protecting state institutions in the country until the results of the referendum.
The army took up the task on Monday in line with a decree a day earlier from Morsi.
The presidential edict orders the military and police to jointly maintain security in the run-up to Saturday’s vote. The decree also grants the military the right to arrest civilians.
“The armed forces must support the police service in complete co-operation in order to preserve security and protect vital state institutions for a temporary period, up to the announcement of the results from the referendum on the constitution,” the decree, which appeared in the government’s official gazette under “Law 107”, says.
Commenting on the presidential edict, AL Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said: “It is not about going back to military rule … it’s a practical move to maintain order.
“It does once again raise concerns because the military are unaccountable when they arrest etcetera, but remember this is a temporary move.”
The Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice party, as well as Salafist political parties, have urged the opposition to accept the referendum’s verdict.
Mahmud Ghozlan, a Brotherhood spokesman, said a coalition called the Alliance of Islamist Forces have also called for a demonstration on Tuesday under the slogan “Yes to legitimacy” in support of the referendum.
The rival rallies in the capital Cairo raise the potential for clashes such as those that erupted last Wednesday, killing seven people and wounding hundreds.
The referendum has deeply polarised Egypt and sparked some of the bloodiest clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents since he came to power in June.