World Bulletin / News Desk
Egypt's liberal and secular opposition has urged its supporters to vote down a post-Mubarak constitution, and set conditions for taking part in the referendum.
President Mohamed Mursi touched off a storm last month when he awarded himself sweeping powers to push through a basic law that he sees as an essential part of Egypt's transition to democracy.
Efforts to resolve the worst political upheaval since the fall of Hosni Mubarak almost two years ago suffered a blow on Wednesday when the army called off planned "unity" talks involving rival factions.
With the first round of polling in the Arab world's most populous nation only two days away, the opposition set out a list of demands for the vote.
The opposition said it would still call for a boycott unless the referendum is held with full supervision by judges, security guarantees, and local and international monitoring. It also wants the vote held on one day rather than the two - Dec. 15 and 22.
State media said the two-day voting plan had been adopted because many of the judges needed to oversee the vote were staying away in protest at the decision to hold the referendum.
Voting therefore had to be staggered to move around those judges willing to cooperate, suggesting that it will be difficult to meet the opposition's demands for voting on only one day under full judicial supervision.
"We will vote 'no'," opposition politician and former Arab League chief Amr Moussa told Reuters.
Leftist Hamdeen Sabahy of the Popular Front added: "The Front decided to call on the people to take part in the referendum and reject this draft constitution and vote no.
"If these guarantees aren't in place by the day of the referendum on Saturday, we will withdraw from it."
Egyptians abroad began voting on Wednesday at embassies. At home, broadcast media gave procedural details, telling people they must dip a finger in ink after they cast their ballot to avoid multiple voting.
The absence of a boycott could help to ease confrontation on the streets and give the constitution more legitimacy if it passes.
The main opposition coalition says the draft constitution does not reflect the aspirations of all 83 million Egyptians.
Mursi's supporters say the constitution is needed to continue the transition to democracy. Some deride their opponents as Mubarak-era "remnants" trying to cling to power.
Islamists have won parliamentary and presidential elections since the fall of Mubarak. They want the vote on the new constitution to go ahead and are confident it will pass, paving the way for them to win a new parliamentary election next year.Last Mod: 13 Aralık 2012, 11:14