Protesters who support ousted president Mohamed Mursi, set a police vehicle on fire during clashes with riot police at Nasr City district in Cairo, yesterday.
CAIRO: Three people were killed in clashes in Egypt yesterday, security sources said, ahead of a referendum next week on a new constitution.
Ousted president Mohamed Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood has called for a boycott of the January 14 and 15 referendum, which is also seen by some as a vote on army chief General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s popularity.
Sisi overthrew Mursi in July following mass protests against his rule and could yet run for president of the Arab world’s biggest country.
The Brotherhood says Sisi’s overthrow of Mursi constituted a coup which undermined democratic gains made since a 2011 popular uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
The referendum is the first milestone in a political transformation that Sisi has said would lead to presidential and parliamentary elections and bring stability to Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel and controls the Suez Canal.
But Islamist militants have stepped up attacks on security forces since Mursi’s ouster, and street violence has continued, conditions which have decimated investment and tourism.
Yesterday, two people were killed in the city of Suez in clashes between supporters and opponents of Mursi, who is on trial for charges including incitement to murder.
In Egypt’s second city of Alexandria, one person was killed in clashes, said security sources.
A crackdown on the Brotherhood has limited its ability to hold street protests it had hoped would bring down the army-backed government.
Hundreds of members have been killed and the group’s leaders have been jailed.
Meanwhile, ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafik said in a television interview broadcast on Thursday that he would run for president if the army chief does not contest elections.
“I believe now I will run for the presidency,” Shafik told Al Qahira Wil Nas television, adding that he would compete if army chief General Abdel Fattah Al Sisi stayed out of the race that is expected later this year.
Shafik left Egypt last year after being defeated in the presidential election by Mohamed Mursi. Last month, Egyptian courts acquitted him in one corruption case and shelved another.
Shafik’s return would reflect a shift in the balance of power in Egypt since the army removed Mursi and set the Arab world’s largest nation on a new course designed to lead to presidential and parliamentary elections.
The next milestone is a January 14-15 referendum on a new constitution.
Shafik, a former air force commander who cited Mubarak as a role model during his election campaign, lost narrowly to Mursi in the run-off.
Speaking from the United Arab Emirates, Shafik said it was possible he would return to Cairo to vote in the referendum.
In an interview in September, he said he would not run for the presidency if Sisi did and added that Sisi had his full support.
Sisi has yet to say if he will run. He enjoys wide support among those Egyptians who rejoiced at Mursi’s overthrow, but he is reviled by the ousted president’s supporters. Dates for presidential and parliamentary elections have yet to be set.
Egyptian security forces have mounted one of the toughest crackdowns on the Brotherhood in its history, killing hundreds of its members and arresting top leaders. In an apparent attempt to capitalise on widespread anti-Brotherhood sentiment, Shafik called for maximum force to be used against the group.