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Egyptian Opposition Urges 'No' Vote on Referendum
December 13, 2012

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Opposition leaders have called for their supporters to protest Egypt's draft constitution by voting No in Saturday's referendum, while also setting some conditions.

The National Salvation Front, formed by Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed El-Baradei, former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, and many others, had threatened a boycott because of concerns that the constitution didn't accurately reflect all of Egyptian society. Protesters in the thousands have gathered in Cairo, Alexandria, Heliopolis, and other cities for several days, since President Mohamed Morsi announced sweeping new presidential powers and encouraged the constitution-writing assembly to finish their work quickly. Rival crowds of Morsi supporters have gathered in the same cities but largely in different areas. One notable exception was a confrontation outside the presidential palace in Heliopolis, which turned violent and ended in nine deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Opposition leaders hedged a bit by saying that they still wanted to see judges and security personnel overseeing the voting and for the voting to finish in one day, otherwise they would urge a boycott. Voting has already begun in embassies and consulates, which operate on a different timetable. Morsi had originally set December 15 as the one day for voting. In recent days, however, some have raised the possibility of multiple days of domestic voting.

Also, opposition leaders signalled their intention to attend national unity talks called for by Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who then abruptly postponed the meeting without further comment.

In Cairo, including Tahrir Square, and Heliopolis, site of the presidential palace, streets remained calm, with tanks and troops maintaining a vigil outside the palace.

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