Fresh Protests in Egypt Against Islamist-Backed Constitution

Posted December 18th, 2012 at 11:25 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Egypt's main opposition coalition has launched new protests against a contentious Islamist-backed draft constitution that is set to go to a second round of voting on Saturday.

Demonstrators gathered Tuesday outside half a dozen Cairo mosques, as the National Salvation Front staged multiple marches towards the presidential palace and Tahrir Square.

Opponents say the proposed charter will erode civil liberties because it boosts the role of Islamic law and does not mention women's rights. An Islamist-dominated assembly drafted the document, and supporters say its passage is an important step in Egypt's transition to democracy.

The protests came as the country's justice ministry ordered a probe into the first round of voting on the document, which opposition leaders and many jurists claim was tainted by fraud. President Mohamed Morsi claimed victory in the first round of voting last week.

A group of top judges said Monday it will not oversee the second round poll. The State Council of Judges joined many members of the country's judiciary, who boycotted the initial round of the referendum.

The first round was held in 10 of Egypt's 27 regions, including the two main cities of Cairo and Alexandria. The second round will be held in Egypt's remaining provinces, most of which are rural and religiously conservative. The measure needs a simple majority of the vote to pass.

The Muslim Brotherhood, backers of Mr. Morsi, said 56 percent of voters approved the referendum in the first round.

Unofficial tallies showed a low turnout with about one-third of the 26 million eligible voters participating. Egypt's election commission put turnout at 51 percent when voters elected Mr. Morsi in a June runoff election.

Meanwhile, Egypt's prosecutor general Talaat Abdullah submitted his resignation Monday after hundreds of public prosecutors staged a sit-in to protest his appointment.

President Morsi named Abdullah to the post after issuing a decree on November 22 putting himself above judicial oversight. Prosecutors say only the Supreme Judicial Council can nominate a prosecutor general, so as to ensure a separation of powers.

If Abdullah's resignation is accepted, it will be a blow to the Islamist president who has been in a power struggle with the judiciary since last month.

Germany says it has postponed debt relief for Egypt because of concerns that the government is sliding toward dictatorship.

Morsi's actions last month were hailed by his Islamist supporters, but they also triggered nationwide outrage among liberals and non-Muslims. The opposition called his decree a “coup,” and the judges described it as a direct attack on the independence of the judiciary.