CAIRO – Egypt’s leading opposition group urged its followers Wednesday to vote against an Islamist-inspired draft constitution, ending weeks of indecision over whether antigovernment forces should boycott the referendum, which begins this weekend and pits secularists against the Muslim Brotherhood.
The move by the National Salvation Front is a crucial test of its popularity against President Mohammed Morsi and his Islamist supporters. The opposition movement has revived the country’s revolutionary fervor but has been marred by divisions and poor organization, which are expected to be exploited by the Brotherhood’s vast grassroots networks.
The National Salvation Front “decided to call upon the people to go to the polling stations and reject the draft by saying ‘No,’ ” said Hamdeen Sabahi, a former presidential candidate and one of the group’s leaders. “The people will rally at the polls and have a chance to topple the constitution.”
Perhaps sensing a possible setback, he added: “The referendum is not the end of our journey.”
The Front said its decision was contingent upon judicial oversight, international monitors and increased security at polling stations. It is unclear whether those demands can be met. Many judges, angry at a recent power grab by Morsi that weakened the courts, have refused to supervise the referendum. That forced the Islamist leader to announce that voting would be held over two successive Saturdays – beginning this weekend – so participating judges can be rotated around the country.