UK & World News

  • 10 December 2012, 2:15

Egypt: Opposition Rejects Referendum

Egypt's main opposition group has rejected a constitutional referendum set by President Mohamed Morsi, saying it risked dragging the country into "violent confrontation".

The opposition coalition has vowed to oppose a referendum scheduled for December 15, despite Mr Morsi apparently backing down on a decree which gave him sweeping new powers.

The National Salvation Front said in a statement read by its spokesman: "Holding a referendum now in the absence of security reflects haste and an absence of a sense of responsibility on the part of the regime, which risks pushing the country towards violent confrontation."

The Front, an umbrella opposition group of liberal and leftist parties, called for mass protests on Tuesday against a draft constitution shaped by Islamists that it said lacked consensus.

"The Front calls for demonstrations in the capital and in the regions on Tuesday as a rejection of the president's decision that goes against our legitimate demands," the coalition spokesman said.

The statement also condemned "militias" from the Muslim Brotherhood backing Mr Morsi and "terrorist gangs".

Hundreds of protesters milled around Mr Morsi's palace, despite tanks, barbed wire and other barriers installed last week.

With the president's decision on Saturday to retract a controversial decree awarding himself wide powers failing to placate his opponents, the call for a mass protest on Tuesday extends Egypt's political crisis.

The demonstrations could lead to more violence, as occurred on Wednesday when seven people were killed and hundreds injured in vicious clashes outside the presidential palace.

The referendum plan has sparked some of the bloodiest clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents since he came to power in June.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled the president to power, urged the opposition to accept the referendum's verdict.

Islamists say the vote will seal a democratic transition that began when a popular uprising toppled ex-president Hosni Mubarak 22 months ago after three decades of military-backed one-man rule.

Their liberal, leftist and Christian adversaries say the document being fast-tracked through could threaten freedoms and fails to embrace the diversity of Egypt's 83 million people.

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