* Opposition calls for protests on Tuesday
* Demonstrations against Islamist-backed constitution
* Public prosecutor resigns, opposition cheers
By Giles Elgood
CAIRO, Dec 18 Egypt's opposition plans new
protests on Tuesday against a planned Islamist-backed
constitution that looks set to be approved in the second round
of a referendum next weekend.
Islamist President Mohamed Mursi obtained a 57 percent "yes"
vote for the constitution in initial voting on Saturday, his
party said, less than he had hoped for.
The result is likely to embolden the opposition, which says
the law is too Islamist, although the second round is expected
to result in another "yes", while underlining the deep divisions
that have riven Egypt since Hosni Mubarak's fall.
On Monday, protesters broke out into cheers when the public
prosecutor Mursi appointed just last month announced his
resignation. They said it was a victory for the independence of
But they are unlikely to win Saturday's referendum second
round, to be held in districts seen as even more sympathetic
towards Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, which won elections held
after Mubarak was ousted in February 2011.
The opposition National Salvation Front said there were
widespread voting violations in the first round of the
referendum vote and urged organisers to ensure that the second
round was properly supervised.
It has called for protests across Egypt on Tuesday "to stop
forgery and bring down the invalid draft constitution" and wants
organisers to re-run the first round of voting.
In Cairo, the Front plans to hold demonstrations at Tahrir
Square, cradle of the revolution that toppled Mubarak, and
outside Mursi's presidential palace, still ringed with tanks
after earlier protests.
"Down with the constitution of the Brotherhood," the Front
said in a statement. "Down with the constitution of tyranny."
The build-up to the first round saw clashes between
supporters and opponents of Mursi in which eight people died.
Demonstrations in Cairo have been more peaceful, although rival
factions clashed on Friday in Alexandria, Egypt's second biggest
On Monday, more than 1,300 members of the General
Prosecution gathered outside the office of Public Prosecutor
Talaat Ibrahim to demand that he leave his post.
Hours later, Ibrahim announced he had resigned and the crowd
cheered, "God is Great! Long live justice!" and "Long live the
independence of the judiciary!" witnesses said.
Official results of the referendum will come only after the
second round, but one newspaper calculated that out of every 100
Egyptians, 18 voted "yes", 13 voted "no" and the rest did not
participate, buttressing opposition claims that Mursi had failed
to secure real backing.
The closeness of the first-round tally and low turnout give
Mursi scant comfort as he seeks to assemble support for
difficult economic reforms to reduce the budget deficit.
He will hold a further round of national unity talks with
political leaders on Tuesday, but the National Salvation Front
is expected to stay away, as it has in the past.
The lack of a clear result in the plebiscite so far has
complicated matters for Mursi, strengthening the fractious
opposition and casting doubt over the credibility of the
constitution, political analysts believe.
"This percentage ... will strengthen the hand of the
National Salvation Front and the leaders of this Front have
declared they are going to continue this fight to discredit the
constitution," said Mustapha Kamal Al-Sayyid, a professor of
political science at Cairo University.
Mursi would be likely to become more unpopular with the
introduction of planned austerity measures, polarising society
further, Sayyid told Reuters.
If the constitution passes next weekend, national elections
can take place early next year, something many hope will usher
in a much-needed period of stability in Egypt.
To tackle the budget deficit, the government needs to impose
tax rises and cut back fuel subsidies. Uncertainty surrounding
economic reform plans has already forced the postponement of a
$4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. The
Egyptian pound has fallen to eight-year lows against the dollar.
Mursi and his backers say the constitution is vital to
moving Egypt's democratic transition forward. Opponents say the
document is too Islamist and ignores the rights of women and of
minorities, including Christians who make up 10 percent of the
Demonstrations erupted when Mursi awarded himself extra
powers on Nov. 22 and then fast-tracked the constitution through
an assembly dominated by his Islamist allies and boycotted by
The referendum is being held over two days because many of
the judges needed to oversee polling staged a boycott in
protest. In order to pass, the constitution must be approved by
more than 50 percent of those casting ballots.