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Marching on

A protester chants anti-Mursi slogans in front of the presidential palace in Cairo today

CAIRO — Egypt’s opposition called for mass protests today against the Islamist-led government’s drive to hold a snap referendum on a new constitution after sweeping aside judicial obstacles.

President Mohamed Mursi ignited a storm of protest when he temporarily assumed extraordinary powers on November 22 to prevent a judiciary still dominated by appointees of ousted predecessor Hosni Mubarak from derailing a troubled political transition.

Riot police mustered around the presidential palace after activists said they would march towards it later in the day in a “last warning” to Mursi, an Islamist narrowly elected by popular vote in June.

A few hundred protesters gathered near his house in a suburb west of Cairo, chanting slogans against his decree and against the Muslim Brotherhood. Police closed the road to stop them from coming any closer, a security official said.

Liberals, leftists, Christians and others have accused Mursi of staging a dictatorial power grab to steamroller through a constitution drafted by an assembly packed with Islamists.

Egypt’s most widely read independent newspapers did not publish today in protest at Mursi’s “dictatorship”. Banks planned to close three hours early, one bank official said.

However, so far there has been only a limited response to opposition calls for a campaign of civil disobedience in the Arab world’s most populous country and cultural hub.

“The presidency believes the opposition is too weak and toothless. Today is the day we show them the opposition is a force to be reckoned with,” said Abdelrahman Mansour in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the cradle of the anti-Mubarak revolt.

“Mursi must come out to talk and hear the people, the opposition,” the activist said. “The opposition says ‘no’ to the constitution and ‘no’ to autocracy.” (Reuters)

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