Approval of Egypt’s draft constitution spurs large protest

KAREEM FAHIM & DAVID D KIRKPATRICK

Large groups of protesters streamed toward the central Tahrir Square Friday as opponents of President Mohammed Morsi, galvanized and angered by his unexpected and hurried effort to pass Egypt's new constitution, sought to marshal numbers of demonstrators for the second time in a week.

The protesters, including leftists, liberals and staunch opponents of Morsi and his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, have grown into an increasingly assertive opposition bloc in recent days, since Morsi issued an edict granting himself powers above any court.

On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of the president's opponents gathered in Tahrir Square here, denouncing Morsi as a new dictator and the Muslim Brotherhood as a secretive group, narrowly focused on its own survival.

"Egypt for all Egyptians!" protesters chanted on Friday.

Morsi has said the edict is temporary and intended to protect a number of his efforts, including passing the constitution and replacing the general prosecutor, from interference by judges on the Constitutional Court appointed by deposed president Hosni Mubarak.

The president and his supporters have yet to provide any proof that meddling by the court was imminent. Even so, on Thursday, the largely Islamist constituent assembly raced through the process of approving a draft constitution — filled, human rights groups and analysts said, with ambiguities and holes.

The result would fulfil some central demands of the revolution: the end of Egypt's all-powerful presidency, a stronger Parliament and provisions against torture or detention without trial. But it would also give Egypt's generals much of the power and privilege they had during the Mubarak era and would reject the demands of ultraconservative Salafis to impose puritanical moral codes.

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