CAIRO - Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi called a Dec. 15 referendum on a
draft constitution on Saturday as at least 200,000 Islamists
demonstrated in Cairo to back him after opposition fury over his newly
Speaking after receiving the final draft of the
constitution from the Islamist-dominated assembly, Morsi urged a
national dialogue as the country nears the end of the transition from
Hosni Mubarak's rule.
"I renew my call for opening a serious
national dialogue over the concerns of the nation, with all honesty and
impartiality, to end the transitional period as soon as possible, in a
way that guarantees the newly-born democracy," Morsi said.
plunged Egypt into a new crisis last week when he gave himself extensive
powers and put his decisions beyond judicial challenge, saying this was
a temporary measure to speed Egypt's democratic transition until the
new constitution is in place.
His assertion of authority in a
decree issued on November 22, a day after he won world praise for brokering a
Gaza truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement,
dismayed his opponents and widened divisions among Egypt's 83 million
Two people have been killed and hundreds wounded in
protests by disparate opposition forces drawn together and re-energized
by a decree they see as a dictatorial power grab.
in Cairo to back the president swelled through the afternoon, peaking
in the early evening at at least 200,000, said Reuters witnesses, basing
their estimates on previous rallies in the capital. The authorities
declined to give an estimate for the crowd size.
"The people want
the implementation of God's law," chanted flag-waving demonstrators,
many of them bussed in from the countryside, who choked streets leading
to Cairo University, where Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood had called the
Tens of thousands of Egyptians had protested against
Morsi on Friday. "The people want to bring down the regime," they
chanted in Cairo's Tahrir Square, echoing the trademark slogan of the
revolts against Hosni Mubarak and Arab leaders elsewhere.
demonstrators threw stones after dark in the northern city of Alexandria
and a town in the Nile Delta. Similar clashes erupted again briefly in
Alexandria on Saturday, state TV said.
Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei said on Saturday the "struggle will continue" after Morsi called for the referendum on a draft constitution.
"(Morsi) put to referendum a draft constitution that undermines basic freedoms and violates universal values. The struggle will continue," ElBaradei said on his Twitter feed.