Protests grow as Islamists in Egypt rush through a new constitution

Egypt hit by strike threats after assembly backs President's power grab 'project'

Cairo

Egypt's opposition groups were scrambling to mount a challenge to their Islamist foes, as Tahrir Square was once again packed with protesters, and newspapers and television channels prepared to go on strike in protest over President Mohamed Morsi's recent power grab.

The rally came after the nation's constituent assembly, an Islamist-dominated body which many liberals and secularists wanted dissolved, added the finishing touches to Egypt's new national charter in the early hours of yesterday. Hossam el-Gheriyani, chairman of the assembly, said during a live broadcast of the final session that officials would call Mr Morsi and inform him that "the project of the constitution is completed".

The President is due to sign the document today before a referendum in mid-December. At the urging of the Brotherhood, the drafting process was completed two months earlier than planned, to avoid an expected legal challenge by Egypt's judiciary. The finished document has been derided by some analysts for its clumsy language, and was rushed through after dozens of secularists, women and Christians resigned from the assembly. Many were replaced by Islamists, and Human Rights Watch – while noting that the constitution safeguarded some key rights – said the final draft was "flawed and contradictory".

Tens of thousands of Islamists are expected to rally today in support of Mr Morsi outside Cairo University. An original plan to protest in Tahrir Square was aborted following fears of clashes with the opposition protesters. But given the apparent unwillingness of either side to retreat, there are continuing fears that the political brinkmanship will spill over on to the street.

A number of private TV channels and newspapers plan to strike next week in response to the President's decree and the fast-track constitution.

In an attempt to shield himself from the gathering storm, Mr Morsi issued a televised appeal for calm late on Thursday. He explained that last week's presidential decree, which granted him unprecedented powers, was a temporary measure designed to speed the democratic transition. Mr Morsi's declaration led to a partial strike by judges incensed that their powers of oversight had been abrogated. "It will end as soon as the people vote on a constitution," the President said. "There is no place for dictatorship."

But amid the tents and talking-circles of Tahrir Square yesterday, the mood was uncompromising. "I'm a Muslim, but the Brotherhood are not Muslims at all," said Amgad Bashir, a member of Mohamed ElBaradei's Al-Dostour Party. "They do not understand religion and they do not understand the teachings of the Prophet Mohamed. Morsi is running a one-man show."

The chaos of the past two weeks has given Egypt's often disparate secular and liberal opposition a standard to rally around. Yet amid the contending political egos and divergent manifestos, it remains unclear how much unity they can actually bring to bear on Mr Morsi. It also seems likely that the highly organised Brotherhood will get the result it wants in any referendum.

Hossam Moanis, a spokesman for the leftist Popular Current party, said the opposition will continue its defiance. "We will carry on demonstrating, and maybe we can raise the pressure by using civil strikes," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker / Trainee Broker / Closer - OTE £250,000

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker/ Trainee FX, Stoc...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL)

£30 - 40k + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / ...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Operations Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is the single governing and regul...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufa...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935