Dueling Factions Out in Force on Eve of Egypt's Referendum
Fighting between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators in Alexandria
Dueling factions of Egyptians came out in force across the country once again Friday afternoon on the eve of the country's controversial constitutional referendum.
Once again, fighting broke out between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators in Alexandria—an indication that three weeks of unrest in the country, which has resulted in the death of at least 8 protesters and hundreds of injuries, is far from over.
Dozens of rival protesters fought with clubs and swords after a scuffle broke out near a mosque in Alexandria, Reuters reports, and a number of cars were set on fire, as oppositional demonstrations look place across the city.
The largest rallies are currently underway in Cairo—also split between those who support President Morsi and his recently drafted constitution and those oppose his controversial decisions.
Opposition coalition the National Salvation Front organized demonstrations at the presidential palace and in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday, as Morsi supporters, the Coalition of Islamist Forces, rallied at the Nasr City district in Cairo following mid-day prayers.
Official referendum voting days are December 15 and 22; however, voting is already underway at Egyptian embassies abroad with 500,000 people expected to cast their votes in 150 countries.
The draft constitution in question was approved by an assembly of Morsi allies and came directly after Morsi issued a presidential decree that gave him sweeping powers over the country's judiciary. The two moves have been labeled 'dictatorial' and a blow to the rights of the country's secular, christian, and leftist minorities.
Oppositional leaders originally urged the country to boycott the referendum, but are now urging voters to vote 'no' on what is expected to be highly tense voting days.
Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi granted the Egyptian military the power to arrest and detain citizens earlier this week. The army has been deployed around the country with orders to protect polling stations and other government buildings. Roughly 120,000 troops and 6,000 tanks and armored vehicles will be deployed, Reuters reports.