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Egyptian Opposition Blasts Newly Signed Constitution: 'Autocratic Tyranny in the Name of Religion'

Revolutionary youth rebuff calls for 'farcical' talks; Plans begin for new protests

- Beth Brogan, staff writer

Opponents of Egypts controversial new constitution—signed into law Wednesday by President Mohamed Morsi—have pledged to protest again on January 25, two years after the uprising that brought down former President Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt's opposition rejects Mohammed Morsi compromise on constitution. (Photo: telegraph.co.uk) Offers by Morsi to meet with the opposition group National Salvation Front were rebuffed as "farcical," with National Salvation Front leader Abdel Ghani telling the BBC, "The current dialogue is farcical and theatrical. The president is talking to himself." Ghani accused the government of trying to establish an "autocratic tyranny in the name of religion."

On Thursday, Members of the opposition met at the home of Mohamed Elbaradei, head of the Constitution Party, on Thursday to begin plans for new rounds of protest.

As the Egypt Independent reports:

ElBaradei reportedly met with the youth to discuss various political issues, including preparations for the second anniversary of the 25 January revolution and new methods to escalate peaceful protests against the recently adopted Constitution. They also discussed how to prepare for the upcoming parliamentary election, such as having the National Salvation Front run on a single list.

April 6 spokesperson Mahmoud Afify said he was at the meeting, as well as group members Ahmed Maher, Engy Hamdy, Ahmed al-Nadeem, Mohamed Samy, Mahmoud Basha and Mohamed Kamal.

The meeting is the first in a planned series of discussions between different opposition figures, including Hamdeen Sabbahi, Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh and Egypt's Future founder Amr Khaled.

“The next 25 January will be a day of rage all over Egypt,” Afify said, although he added that the protests would be peaceful.

Protests have been ongoing since Morsi and his political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, quickly drafted a constitution and rushed through a referendum opposed by women and other minorities, including Coptic Christians and secular liberals.

Most recently, dozens of Egyptian women on Tuesday protested Morsi's fundamentalist constitution by cutting their hair—chanting, "A woman's crown is her liberation!"

Critics also objected to the speed with which the constitution was passed, arguing it did not include their opinions. International watchdog group Human Rights Watch said the constitution "fails to end ilitary trials of civilians or to protect freedom of expression or religion."

Journalist Chris Hedges recently called Morsi "Egypt's New Pharoah," and likened his leadership to that of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the 1980s:

He set out to destroy the secular opposition forces ... Khomeini’s declaration of an Islamic government, supported by referendum, saw him rewrite the constitution, close opposition newspapers and ban opposition groups including the National Democratic Front and the Muslim People’s Republican Party. Dissidents who had spent years inside Iran’s notoriously brutal prison system under the shah were incarcerated once again by the new regime. Some returned to their cells to be greeted by their old jailers, who had offered their services to the new regime. This is what is under way in Egypt.

Hedges continued:

Liberal democrats, intellectuals, the middle class, secularists and religious minorities including Coptic Christians were always seen by President Mohamed Morsi and his Freedom and Justice Party—Egypt’s de facto political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood—as useful idiots."

Egypt's referendum was criticized as rigged and rife with violations at the polls and inadequate supervision by judges—many of whom boycotted the process. Voters approved the constitution with 64 percent of the votes, despite just a 33 percent turnout.

Ironically, in his first address to the country on Wednesday, Morsi said, in part, "We don't want to return to an era of one opinion and fake, manufactured majorities," The Guardian reports.

The Guardian continues that after the new constitution was signed into law, "Morsi moved quickly to swear in new members of the country's shura council—the upper council of parliament... the council currently includes 270 members, 90 of whom were appoited by Morsi on Monday ... The Islamist-dominated council is expected to draft a law regulating forthcoming parliamentary elections. Othre itms on the agenda may inculde laws on protests and the media."

Prior to the Saturday's referendum—the second day of voting— Zaid al-Ali, who has tracked Egypt's constitution-writing process for the International Institute for Democratic and Electoral Assistance, said the document would have legal legitimacy, but "it's difficult to argue it would have popular legitimacy."

For minorities, women and the press, the new constitution does not bode well for the future, Hedges wrote prior to the vote:

The draft constitution is filled with disturbingly vague language about democratic rights, civil liberties, the duties of women and the role of the press. It gives Islamic religious authorities control over the legislative process and many aspects of daily and personal life.