Egyptian opposition call for more protests | News | DW | 17.12.2012
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Egyptian opposition call for more protests

Egypt’s opposition are vowing to keep up the pressure on the country’s president in the week leading up to the final day of voting on a controversial draft constitution. They have called another day of mass protests.

The National Salvation Front, a coalition of Egyptian opposition groups, has called for more demonstrations against the draft constitution, which was written by an Islamist-dominated legislative assembly.

"The Front is calling on Egyptians to take to the streets on Tuesday to defend their freedoms, prevent fraud and reject the draft constitution," the coalition said in a statement released late on Sunday.

The statement came after the Freedom of Justice party of President Mohammed Morsi claimed that around 56 percent of those who cast their ballots on the referendum on Sunday, had voted in favor of the controversial draft. Egyptian media reported a similar figure, however turnout appeared to be low, with only about one-third of the 26 million eligible voters turning up to the polls.

Opposition groups have complained of widespread irregularities and demanded that Saturday's voting be repeated. Official results are not to be released until after the second round of voting is completed next Saturday.

The referendum is being held over two weekends, because many judges, who supervise elections in Egypt, refused to take part, in protest against the draft.

President Morsi angered much of the judiciary late last month, when he issued a decree granting himself sweeping extra powers and placing his decisions above judicial review. Morsi, who later rescinded many aspects of the November 22 decree, argued that he needed the extra powers to move democratic reforms forward – including the constitutional referendum.

The opposition argue that the draft would undermine human rights in general, particularly with regard to women and religious minorities.

International concerns about Egypt's young democracy

Morsi's power grab last month raised international concerns about what direction Egypt was moving in, almost two years after long-time strongman Hosni Mubarak stepped down after weeks of mass protests against his rule.

On Monday, Germany's development minister expressed the fear that Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood could be working to undermine Egypt's fledgling democracy.

"There is the danger that the dictatorial system of toppled President Mubarak could re-emerge, but with different people [in charge]," Dirk Niebel said in a report published in the Berliner Zeitung.

He also warned that any instability in Egypt would amount to "a huge risk to security beyond the region."

Niebel noted that Berlin would continue to keep contacts with the Egyptian government to a minimum level for the foreseeable future. The development cooperation talks with Cairo, which had been scheduled for this month, had been cancelled and a partial write-off of Egyptian debt had been put off. On the other hand, Niebel stressed that if the Egyptian government introduced measures to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, Germany stood ready to provide assistance.

"It's all in the Egyptian government's hands," the minister said.

pfd/hc (dpa, AFP)