Egyptian soldiers carry boxes with official papers in preparation for a referendum on a draft constitution, in Cairo, yesterday.
CAIRO: Islamists backing Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi and the secular opposition ranged against them were yesterday rolling out campaigns over a divisive new constitution that has sparked weeks of protests.
The staggered referendum to decide the text is to begin tomorrow across half of Egypt, including in Cairo and Alexandria. The rest of the country will vote a week later, on December 22.
The protests, and over near-absolute powers that Mursi gave himself for two weeks to push it through, have failed to sway the president from his path.
“It’s you who will pay the price if you vote yes. No to the constitution,” said an online campaign advertisement by an opposition group called April 6.
The pro-referendum camp has released videos with a song that goes “This constitution is not too bad, it was written by a committee of heroes.” It also has supporters holding “Yes to the constitution” placards along main roads.
Fears of violence remain after violent clashes in Cairo last week in which eight people were killed and more than 600 injured.
Thousands of soldiers and 130,000 police will be deployed tomorrow to provide security, officials said. Mursi has ordered the army to secure state institutions, giving it powers of arrest until the referendum result is known.
The military, which ruled for 16 months following the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak early last year, has tried in vain to bring both sides together for talks to calm the crisis. Mursi ordered the referendum to be split because of a lack of judges willing to monitor voting. The opposition National Salvation Front, while urging its supporters to vote “no”, warned it could yet call a last-minute boycott if the referendum was not brought back to just one day of voting, and if judges and independent observers did not monitor every polling station. AFP