Protesters rallied throughout Egypt on Friday after an Islamist-led assembly supported by President Mohamed Morsi rushed through a new constitution that could curtail freedom of speech, women's rights and other freedoms.
Opposition groups marched to Cairo's Tahrir Square, where dozens of protesters say they will remain camped out until Morsi reverses a Nov. 22 decree granting him sweeping powers and barring court rule over his decisions, al Jazeera reports.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which supports Morsi, has called for more rallies on Saturday.
The assembly drafting Egypt's new constitution met throughout the night Thursday before voting early Friday morning, but that vote took place without the participation of a quarter of the assembly, including liberals, Christians, moderate Muslims and others who withdrew from the assembly, saying their voices were not being heard, according to Reuters.
Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from Tahrir Square, said the draft constitution was being viewed as the "Muslim Brotherhood constitution".
The vote followed the Nov. 22 decree by Morsi that dramatically increased his powers and barred any court from overturning his decrees. That sparked 8 days of protests, with clashes between Morsi supporters — including the Muslim Brotherhood — and opponents who called Morsi the "new pharoah."
In a joint statement, twenty-two Egyptian human rights organizations condemned the decree, saying Morsi, “who now possesses authorities beyond those enjoyed by any president or monarch in Egypt’s modern history, has dealt a lethal blow to the Egyptian judiciary, thereby declaring the beginning of a new dictatorship," Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports in The Nation.
24 judges also went on strike to protest the decree, Kouddous reports, and were later joined by two of the highest appeals courts in the country.
"The people want to bring down the regime," critics chanted Friday in Tahrir Square, echoing the chants that rang out in the same place less than two years ago and brought down former president Hosni Mubarak, Reuters reports.
"We fundamentally reject the referendum and constituent assembly because the assembly does not represent all sections of society," Sayed el-Erian, 43, a protester in Tahrir and member of a party set up by opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, told Reuters.
But Morsi may have miscalculated his power grab, Kouddous reports:
By issuing the decree, Morsi succeeded in uniting his opposition, bringing together the fractured non-Islamist groups. More than twenty groups joined a newly formed National Salvation Front—a coalition against the declaration—including former presidential candidates, secular liberal and leftist parties as well as members of the former regime.
Culminating in a massive demonstration in Tahrir on November 27, the protests brought hundreds of thousands to the iconic square, marking the biggest challenge to the ruling party to date—not only to Morsi himself but also to the Muslim Brotherhood and its one-party majoritarian mindset.
Several independent newspapers said they woud not publish on Tuesday in protest, and reports indicate three private satellite channels will cease broadcasting on Wednesday.
Morsi said the turmoil would end once the constitution was voted on.
The constitution will be put to public referendum within 15 days of the president's ratification, Reuters reports.