Cairo’s Tahrir Square fills with anti-Morsi protesters


Protesters opposed to Egypt’s president and the sweeping new powers he assumed last week have gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, hours after a new constitution was hastily approved.

The Islamist-dominated constituent assembly finished voting on the draft in the early hours on Friday.

The draft will now be sent to Mr Morsi, who is expected to call a referendum.

The Supreme Constitutional Court is due to rule on Sunday on whether the assembly should be dissolved.

Senior judges have been in a stand-off with the president since he granted himself sweeping new powers.

‘Fall of the regime’

An emergency decree issued last week said Mr Morsi’s decisions could not be revoked by any authority, including the judiciary, until the new constitution had been ratified and a fresh parliamentary election is held.

It also stated that the courts could not dissolve the constituent assembly.

Mr Morsi says he will give up his extraordinary powers once the new constitution is approved by a referendum.

Live TV feeds from Tahrir Square showed crowds of thousands in the square, although there was still room to move.

Demonstrators chanted slogans, including, “The people want the fall of the regime”, one of the rallying cries against ex-President Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled last year.

Egyptian media, including the al-Watan newspaper, report that protesters confronted Mr Morsi at Friday prayers at the al-Sharbatli mosque.

The reports say the imam leading prayers compared Mr Morsi’s new powers to the difficulties which confronted the Prophet Muhammad at the beginning of his mission.

Mr Morsi insists the powers he has taken are meant to be temporary and will protect the transition to a constitutional democracy.

However, their extent has raised fears that he might become a new strongman. Opposition protests have taken place across the country.

Mr Morsi’s decree of 22 November gave the 100-member constituent assembly until January to complete the draft constitution.

Opponents filed 43 separate lawsuits challenging the process.

When the Supreme Constitutional Court said it would soon rule on the lawsuits, supporters of the president on the assembly decided to pass a rushed draft to head off the threat of dissolution.

During a marathon session that began on Thursday and continued through the night, the assembly voted on and passed all 234 articles.

Among the historic changes to Egypt’s system of government, the draft limits the amount of time a president can serve to two four-year terms.

It also introduces some civilian oversight of the military establishment.

The draft keeps in place an article defining “principles of Sharia”, or Islamic law, as the main source of legislation.


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