Fighting in Alexandria ahead of constitution vote
Supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi hurled rocks at each other in Egypt’s second city yesterday on the eve of a final vote on an Islamist-influenced constitution that has divided the country.
Police fired tear gas to separate scores of opponents of the constitution and thousands of Islamists who clashed in the rain near a mosque in Alexandria. Health officials said 32 people were injured.
“God is great,” Islamists chanted as the clashes began.
The Islamists had gathered in support of an Islamic vision of Egypt’s future a day before a second round of voting in a referendum on the basic law. Opposition supporters had also turned out as worshippers assembled for Friday prayers.
Mr Morsi and his Islamist allies back the draft constitution as a vital step in Egypt’s transition to democracy almost two years after the fall of Hosni Mubarak. The opposition says the draft, drawn up by an Islamist-dominated assembly, is a recipe for deeper divisions and more violence.
The Muslim Brotherhood called for the rally in Alexandria to protest after a violent confrontation between Islamists and the liberal, secular opposition last week ended with a Muslim preacher besieged inside his mosque for 14 hours.
Rival factions had used clubs, knives and swords last week, but this time police kept the feuding sides apart, although witnesses saw several protesters and one police officer being helped away. Some protesters had head wounds.
The run-up to today’s final round of voting on the new constitution has been marked by often violent protests that have cost at least eight lives.
The first round on December 15th produced a Yes vote that is expected to be repeated. – (Reuters)