Tension high ahead of divisive referendum in Egypt

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Tension high ahead of divisive referendum in Egypt

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A relative calm pervades Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital Cairo on the eve of a second divisive referendum on a new draft constitution.

The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a mass rally in Alexandria after violent confrontations between Islamists and liberal, secular Egyptians.

The first vote on December 15 backed the new constitution supported by President Mohammed Mursi.

Both sides have their arguments.

Murad Ali, the media advisor for the Freedom and Justice party, said: “We are now talking about democracy and this is a role of democracy. And we expect the results to reach something like 60 percent voting yes to the constitution, so if you see 60 percent of the population are for something you have to follow them.”

Ghada Shahbandar, who is opposed to the new draft is a board member of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights. She said: “We are concerned about the freedom and the rights of all Egyptians be they women, children, youth or adult men, Nubians, bedouins from Sinai, Muslims or Christians. This constitution does not protect the rights of all Egyptians.”

The constitution must be in place before elections can go ahead within two months. But many fear the bill will exacerbate the spilt between Islamists and the secular groupings.

The country has been in a state of chaos since Mubarak was disposed in February