Thousands of Islamists support Egypt president in rival rally


Tens of thousands of people waving Egyptian flags and hoisting large pictures of the president are demonstrating across Egypt Saturday in support of him and Islamic law.

The rally, organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, is seen as a test of strength for Islamists seeking to counteract large opposition protests held this past week. The Islamists argue that the liberals, who are still laboring to create a cohesive opposition nearly two years after the uprising that ousted longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, do not represent the vast majority of Egyptians.

The Brotherhood and harder-line Islamists won nearly 75 percent of the seats in last winter's parliamentary election. But liberals highlight the fact that President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Brotherhood's political party, won only 25 percent of votes in the first round of presidential elections. He went on to win the runoff by just over 50 percent, after a divisive race against a former regime figure.

Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly liberal and secular forces, took to the streets twice this week opposing Morsi's decrees to grant himself sweeping powers. On Friday, up to 200,000 people packed Cairo's streets alone, vowing to bring down a draft constitution approved by allies of Morsi, and demanding he repeal the decrees that neutralized the judiciary.

Morsi says he acted to prevent courts led by former regime holdovers from delaying a transition to democracy and dissolving the assembly that wrote the draft constitution.

"The people support the president's decision!" chanted crowds outside Cairo University, where more than 10,000 had gathered by midday. They held posters that read "Yes to stability" and "Yes to Islamic law".

The draft was passed by an Islamist-led assembly early Friday and is expected to be presented to the president Saturday. He will then decide on a date for a nationwide referendum, possibly in mid-December.

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