CAIRO - Egypt's opposition will hold new protests on Tuesday
against an Islamist-backed draft constitution that has divided the nation but
which looks set to be approved in the second round of a referendum next
Islamist President Mohamed Morsi obtained a 57 percent "yes"
vote for the constitution in a first round of the referendum on Saturday, state
media said, less than he had hoped for.
The result is likely to embolden
the opposition, which says the law is too Islamist. But they are unlikely to win
this Saturday's second round, to be held in districts seen as even more
sympathetic towards Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
Protesters broke out into
cheers when the public prosecutor Morsi appointed last month announced his
resignation late on Monday. Further signs of opposition emerged when a judges'
club urged its members not to supervise Saturday's vote. But the call is not
binding on members and balloting is expected to go ahead.
constitution passes next weekend, national elections can take place early next
year, something many hope will help end the turmoil that has gripped Egypt since
the fall of Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago.
The main opposition
coalition, the National Salvation Front, said there were widespread voting
violations in the first round of the referendum and urged organizers to ensure
that the second round was properly supervised.
It has called for protests
across Egypt on Tuesday "to stop forgery and bring down the invalid draft
constitution" and wants organizers to re-run the first round of
The Ministry of Justice said it was appointing a group of judges
to investigate allegations of voting irregularities around the
In Cairo, the Front planned to hold
demonstrations at Tahrir Square, cradle of the revolution that toppled Mubarak,
and outside Morsi's presidential palace, still ringed with tanks after earlier
"Down with the constitution of the Brotherhood," the Front said
in a statement. "Down with the constitution of tyranny." A protester at the
presidential palace, Mohamed Adel, 30, said: "I have been camping here for weeks
and will continue to do so until the constitution that divided the nation, and
for which people died, gets scrapped."
The build-up to the first round of voting
saw clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi in which eight people
died. Recent demonstrations in Cairo have been more peaceful, although rival
factions clashed on Friday in Alexandria, Egypt's second biggest city.
Monday evening, more than 1,300 members of the General Prosecution staff
gathered outside the office of Public Prosecutor Talaat Ibrahim to demand that
he leave his post.
Hours later, Ibrahim announced he had resigned and the
crowd cheered, "God is Great! Long live justice!" and "Long live the
independence of the judiciary!" witnesses said.
The closeness of the
first-round referendum vote and low turnout give Morsi scant comfort as he seeks
to assemble support for difficult economic reforms to reduce the budget
He will hold a further round of national unity talks with
political leaders on Tuesday, but the National Salvation Front is expected to
stay away, as it has in the past.
The lack of a big
majority in the plebiscite so far has complicated matters for Morsi,
strengthening the fractious opposition and casting doubt on the credibility of
the constitution, political analysts believe.
"This percentage ... will
strengthen the hand of the National Salvation Front and the leaders of this
Front have declared they are going to continue this fight to discredit the
constitution," said Mustapha Kamal Al-Sayyid, a professor of political science
at Cairo University.
Morsi would be likely to become more unpopular with
the introduction of planned austerity measures, polarizing society further,
Sayyid told Reuters.
To tackle the budget deficit, the government needs
to impose tax rises and cut back fuel subsidies. Uncertainty surrounding
economic reform plans has already forced the postponement of a $4.8 billion loan
from the International Monetary Fund. The Egyptian pound has fallen to
eight-year lows against the dollar.
Morsi and his backers say the
constitution is is needed to move Egypt's democratic transition forward.
Opponents say the document is too Islamist and ignores the rights of women and
of minorities, including Christians who make up 10 percent of the
Demonstrations erupted when Morsi awarded himself extra
powers on November 22 and then fast-tracked the constitution through an assembly
dominated by his Islamist allies and boycotted by many liberals.
referendum has had to be held over two days because many of the judges needed to
oversee polling staged a boycott in protest. In order to pass, the constitution
must be approved by more than 50 percent of those voting.