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Protesters march in Egypt

Tens of thousands of protesters took the streets in Egypt denouncing President Mohammed Morsi and a draft constitution that his Islamist allies approved early Friday in a rushed, all-night session without the participation of liberals and Christians.

Anger at Morsi even spilled over into a mosque where the Islamist president joined weekly Friday prayers. In his sermon, the mosque's preacher compared Morsi to Islam's Prophet Muhammad, saying the prophet had enjoyed vast powers as leader, giving a precedent for the same to happen now.

"No to tyranny!" congregants chanted, interrupting the cleric. Morsi took to the podium and told the worshippers that he too objected to the language of the sheik and that one-man rule contradicts Islam.

Crowds of protesters marched from several locations in Cairo, converging in central Tahrir Square for what the opposition plans to be the second massive rally in a week against Morsi. They chanted, "Constitution: Void!" and "The people want to bring down the regime."

The protests were sparked by the president's decrees a week ago granting himself sweeping powers and neutralizing the judiciary, the last check on his authority. The edicts tapped into a feeling among many Egyptians that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, from which he hails, are using their election victories to monopolize power and set up a new one-party state, nearly two years after the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

As a result, Egypt has been thrown into its most polarizing and volatile crisis since Mubarak's ouster. The past week, clashes between Morsi's supporters and opponents left two dead and hundreds wounded and raised fears of further chaos. The Brotherhood and other Islamists plan their own massive rally backing Morsi on Saturday.

But the sudden adoption of a draft constitution by an Islamist-dominated assembly tasked with producing the document throws the confrontation into a new phase.

The opposition must now decide how to deal with a nationwide referendum on the document, likely to come in mid-December: Boycott the vote to protest what critics call a deeply flawed charter or try to use anger at Morsi, rally the public to reject it in the referendum.

The Canadian Press


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