Last stand before divisive Egypt referendum

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Last stand before divisive Egypt referendum

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Right up to the last hours before a referendum on Egypt’s new constitution, protesters stood shoulder to shoulder in Cairo’s Tahrir Square calling for today’s vote to be cancelled.

The divisive poll asks Egyptians to accept or reject a basic law that has been written by a mostly Islamist committee.

The Liberal, Christian and non-secular opposition claims their views have not been heard.

“People who have drafted the constitution may have good intentions but we want more clarity and flexibility and we want all these people to be satisfied with a constitution that suits all of Egypt; one that isn’t tainted with blood,” said one opposition supporter.

Supporters of President Mohamed Mursi, whose power grab in recent weeks has led to violent protests, held their own pre-referendum rally.

They say the charter is crucial to allow progress towards democracy nearly two years after the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

Protesters chanted “yes to the constitution”, waving flags of the Muslim Brotherhood, which helped bring Mursi to power.

One man said: “I will vote ‘yes’, God willing, because I am in favour of legitimacy. We chose Mohamed Mursi. What’s clear for us is his legitimacy at the ballot box. So we are saying ‘yes’ so that the country is stabilised.”

A second stage of the vote will be held next Saturday as there are not enough judges willing to monitor all polling stations. Some have vowed to boycott the referendum.